By Brian Yauger
Youngstown State University’s men’s basketball team made a second-half push to get past the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the first round of the Horizon League tournament.
The Penguins scored 14 of the last 17 points in the game, rallying back from a 6-point deficit at halftime to get the win. YSU outscored the Panthers 33-21 in the second half.
“It obviously wasn’t pretty, but it’s March,” Penguins coach Jerrod Calhoun said. “It doesn’t have to be pretty, it’s ‘survive and advance.’”
The win gives the Penguins their highest win total since the 2012-13 season, where YSU finished 18-16.
“It felt good. It felt like it was secure,” Penguins junior forward Naz Bohannon said. “We got the first one. Now, we got three more to go for a championship.”
Bohannon led the Penguins with a game-high 20 points. First Team All-Horizon League guard Darius Quisenberry scored 12 points and Michael Akuchie added 10, including back-to-back 3-pointers to kick-start the team’s comeback.
The balanced YSU offense was aided by a stout Penguin defense, which held Milwaukee to 10% shooting from behind the arc in the second half.
“I thought we got a lot of good efforts from a lot of guys,” Calhoun said. “Just really relentless. I thought they stayed together and did an unbelievable job in the last 14 minutes of the game defensively. I said a few days ago if we can hold teams to under 70 [points], we’ve got a real chance to make a run.”
Quisenberry said the team’s defense is the X-factor going forward.
“We bring our energy wherever we go; our defense carries with us as well,” he said. “Wherever we go, our defense goes. … That’s going to carry our offense as well. We’ll be fine if we have our defense with us.”
The YSU football team was in the Beeghly Center, aiding in the tournament atmosphere that’s helped YSU set a record 13 home wins, which is the highest since YSU made the jump to Division I.
“The crowd carried us again, similar to Wright State,” Calhoun said. “Our guys fed off the people of Youngstown. I can’t say enough about the support here and the way they’ve rallied for our guys. They helped us win a lot of games.”
The Penguins (18-14) will travel to Illinois to take on the University of Illinois at Chicago in a Horizon League quarterfinal match Thursday at 8 p.m. on the Loyola University campus.
UIC advanced to the second round with a convincing win over Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
The YSU women saw their season come to an end in an 84-48 loss to Cleveland State University. The Penguins ended their year at 13-17 overall.
Junior forward Emma VanZanten scored a career-high 13 points in the loss, and junior guard Chelsea Olson scored all 12 of her points from 3-point range.
Assuming Mary Dunn’s medical redshirt is approved, the Penguins will return their entire roster for the 2020-21 season.