A crowd-pleasing jumper by Penguins guard DJ Cole in the final seconds of their match up against Loyola University won the first round in the Horizon League tournament.
The Penguins were up by two points when Loyola University called a timeout with 16 seconds left in the game on Tuesday at Beeghly Center. Kendrick Perry was another face in the crowd that stood and roared support for Youngstown State University.
Three seconds after play resumed, a foul by senior guard Blake Allen gave the Ramblers a chance at overtime.
Swish, swish. Tied score.
Forward Kamren Belin took the ball into play and passed to sophomore guard DJ Cole, who drove the ball about half way down the court.
“What I was hoping was as he was driving that everybody would be looking at the ball, and maybe we could sneak Blake [Allen] off the baseline off a screen,” said head coach Jerry Slocum.
But as Belin set the pick, Cole had a decision to make.
“I just seen an opening so I just took it,” Cole said.
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Cole faked right, went left and out dribbled Ramblers guard Jeff White for a game-winning jump shot with three seconds to go, lifting YSU to a 62-60 victory.
“DJ loves his left. It’s his favorite side,” Slocum said. “I got a lot of great ideas, but my lips to their ears to their feet at times really gets messed up in a situation like that.”
The shot marked the Penguins’ (17-14) first Horizon League win since junior guard Kendrick Perry dislocated his knee in practice.
Cole said the team had to work together to replace the team’s top scorer.
“That’s a lot of points that we’re leaving out on the floor. We just got to come together as a team. Everybody has to chip in,” Cole said.
Coming off back to back loses against Valparaiso University and Wright State University, Cole said it felt good to chalk up another mark in the win column.
“That was a terrible game we played at Wright State. We just wanted to put that behind us and come back and get ready for tournament play,” he said.
He added that the team is looking forward to a rematch against the Raiders on Friday at Valpo. The Penguins fell to WSU, 72-45, on Saturday.
“That wasn’t us the way we played them last week, and we’re just ready to get after them again,” he said.
The win means the Penguins will move on in the tournament, but wins by Green Bay University and the University of Illinois-Chicago on Tuesday mean the Penguins have played their last home game of the season.
YSU is now the lowest ranked team left in the tournament as they face WSU on Friday in the hopes of playing the University of Detroit on Saturday to move onto the championship on March 12.