By Dan Hiner
The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team had the ball with 16.3 seconds left in the game. The score was tied 63-63 and the ball was at half court. As the play started and the clock ticked away, the ball eventually found itself in the hands of YSU guard Marcus Keene.
With seconds left, Keene pulled up for a jump shot from a few feet behind the 3-point line. Keene connected on the game winning 3-pointer that allowed the Penguins to go home happy with a 66-63 win against the University of Missouri Kansas City.
“He got an incredible will. We say he’s 5’10”, he’s probably 5’9” and he’s 6’4 at heart,” head coach Jerry Slocum said.
With the win the Penguins improve to 4-3 on the season, and are over the .500 mark for the first time this season.
What started out as a well-executed game and a comfortable lead slowly became a heart stopping shootout between YSU and UMKC, with teams traded baskets during the final minutes of the game.
The Penguins’ win against the UMKC was a lot closer than expected. YSU controlled the first half. The Penguins went into the locker room with a 36-29 lead. YSU held the lead in the first half for 18 minutes of the 20 minute half.
Guard Shawn Amiker carried the YSU offense for much of the first half, scoring 13 points and six rebounds. During the second half Amiker only attempted two shots, and was able to rely on Keene and the rest of the team for offensive support late in the second half. Amiker finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, registering his second career double-double.
Keene came up big for the Penguins down the stretch. After only scoring three points during the first half, Keene finished with 21 points, and shot 50% from behind the arch.
After trailing by seven to begin the second half, the Kangaroos went on a 9-0 run to give them a slight 38-36 lead. The Penguins committed three turnovers during the first three minutes of the half.
“Coach talks about toughness,” Keene said. Basketball is a game of runs, they went on their run, and we had to handle it and we handled it well. We fought and fought them well until the end and we came out with a win.”
With 8:43 left in the game the Penguins’ double digit lead evaporated and the Kangaroos tied the game at 50. Over the final eight minutes the Penguins and the Kangaroos traded blows; both teams committed numerous fouls down the stretch and sent each other to the free throw line. UMKC shot just under 71% from the free throw line, which allowed the Kangaroos to chip away at the Penguin lead.
Slocum admits the team didn’t perform when against the Kangaroos, but he doesn’t want to discredit what his players accomplished in the clutch moments of a hard-fought game.
“We got by with, not a great performance on our end, but a great character performance thought by us. There were a lot of times we turned the ball over and we could have quite, and the kids just kept on playing.”