By Marc Weems
After Youngstown State University’s (13-20) improbable win over the No.1 seed Oakland University, YSU would look to make more history. It looked to beat Northern Kentucky University (22-10) to advance to the championship game. The season series was split with each team winning at home.
YSU lost 84-74 to end its’ season.
Early on it was forward Ben McDonald getting NKU going as he scored the first five points of the game. NKU led YSU 10-5 with 15:25 left in the first half.
NKU kept the pedal to the medal as it increased its’ lead over YSU 22-14 with 11:17 left in the first half. McDonald led all scorers with 12 points while YSU guard Cameron Morse had 7 points.
“We played hard but we just couldn’t get it done,” Morse said. “The credit goes to them. We just couldn’t get over that hump.”
After that media timeout, YSU’s defense fell apart a bit. NKU took a 30-19 lead before YSU took a timeout with 7:24 left in the first half. NKU was shooting 48 percent at that point. NKU was also on a 6-0 run before the timeout.
YSU was quickly able to answer with a run of its’ own. YSU’s 6-0 run included an and-1 by forward Braun Hartfield. NKU still led 30-25 with 4:45 left in the first half.
A tough shooting first half would put YSU down 42-27. McDonald led all scorers with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting. YSU couldn’t get a shot to fall including 2-7 from the free throw line. Morse had 11 points for YSU.
“They didn’t really do anything different than the last few times,” Morse said. “They do a really good job at getting to screens. We had a hard time getting through that stuff. They just prepared well and that’s all it was.”
YSU brought the energy out of the locker room as they started on a 9-0 run to the deficit to 42-36.
“I thought our guys fought hard in this game,” YSU head coach Jerry Slocum said. “Everyone did a good job staying ready.”
NKU led 47-38 with 15:35 left in the game.
NKU made a run of its’ own to put the lead up to 59-44 with 11:12 left. McDonald has 21 points to go along with five rebounds.
YSU never could break through the scoring wall. If YSU made a run, NKU made a similar run. NKU led the Penguins 68-53 with 7:24 left in the second half.
“It sucks for me,” YSU guard Francisco Santiago said. “It was just about taking it one play at a time. We just didn’t make more plays than them. That offensive rebound and then they hit that corner 3-pointer. They were always on top and kept hitting shots.”
Santiago finished the game with 15 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists with just two turnovers.
YSU wasn’t done yet as it cut the lead to 75-68. YSU made its’ last five shots and was on a 6-0 run. NKU took a timeout with 3:36 left in the game.
YSU got as close as 79-74 but weren’t able to come up with a rebound off a miss free throw. A Dantez Walton corner 3-pointer put NKU up 82-74 instead.
“That rebound off the missed free throw was a killer,” Slocum said. “If we get that rebound, we were only down five so who knows.”
The Penguins never got any closer as its tournament run ends with an 84-74 loss to NKU.
“They really did a good job,” Slocum said. “The run that we had in this tournament was great. It was a disappointing year. The guys got together before the tournament and said that they were going to play for the team first.”