Rise together, fall together
All season, the Youngstown State University men’s and women’s basketball teams mirrored each other’s actions.
Both teams recorded win totals higher than the previous season. Both qualified for the postseason. Both earned a postseason victory.
And the list goes on.
On Saturday, the teams continued the trend. But this time, it wasn’t in a positive fashion.
With the women losing in the afternoon and the men being defeated in the evening, the 2012-2013 YSU basketball season came to an end on the same day.
Playing in the second round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, the women’s team lost to the University of Toledo, 61-43. The defeat gave YSU a final record of 23-10 — a 13-win turnaround from the 2011-2012 season.
“I think it’s tremendous, and by all intents and purposes, we had a really good year,” said Bob Boldon, head women’s basketball coach, after the loss. “By most people’s standards, we overachieved.”
Going by the preseason Horizon League rankings, the Penguins overachieved by leaps and bounds. Prior to the season’s start, YSU was picked to finish eighth out of nine conference teams.
Instead, the Penguins went 11-5 in the Horizon League, which was good enough for second place.
“The only reason we weren’t ninth was because Butler [University] left [the conference],” Boldon said. “I think the most impressive thing was that we were good for a very long time.”
From the beginning, YSU managed to turn heads. The Penguins won at the University of Pittsburgh to open the season and didn’t slow down from there.
They put together a six-game winning streak that lasted from Jan. 24 to Feb. 14. Using Beeghly Center to their advantage, the Penguins went 14-1 at home. They also avoided suffering consecutive defeats all season.
“Our kids showed up after every loss and showed up every day,” said Boldon, who earned Horizon League Coach of the Year honors. “We beat the teams that we were supposed to beat, which wasn’t very many. Then, we beat some teams people didn’t think we were going to beat. That’s probably what I’m most proud of.”
Boldon wasn’t the only one to earn accolades. Senior forward Brandi Brown was named the Horizon League Player of the Year for her efforts: earning an average of 20.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game.
This season capped a historic four-year career for Brown at YSU, who leaves as the women’s all-time leading scorer.
“She’ll go down as one of the best basketball players to ever play at YSU,” Boldon said. “And to the people that know her, she’ll go down as one of the best persons at YSU.”
Meanwhile, the men’s team ended the season with a home loss to Canisius College, 82-80, in the second round of the CollegeInsider.com tournament. The Penguins finished with an overall record of 18-16 — an improvement on last season’s 16-15 record.
The 18 wins were the most since the 2000-2001 season.
“This is the most enjoyable year I’ve had since I’ve been at Youngstown State,” said Jerry Slocum, head men’s basketball coach, after the loss. “It’s been an all-in group since Day 1. It’s a team that I’ve enjoyed coaching and being around every day.”
The men were strong at home, finishing with a record of 12-5.
However, the Penguins went only 7-9 in the conference, which earned them a sixth place Horizon League finish.
Still, with wins at the University of Georgia and George Washington University paired with other impressive victories including a home win against conference champion Valparaiso University, YSU earned its first postseason bid since joining the Division I ranks in the 1981-1982 season.
Furthermore, with a home victory against Oakland University in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com tournament, the Penguins captured their first DI postseason victory.
As far as accolades, senior forward Damian Eargle was named as the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year, junior guard Kendrick Perry was named to the All-Horizon League First-Team and junior transfer Kamren Belin was named to the Horizon League All-Newcomer Team.
“It was a blast,” senior guard Blake Allen said. “I was extremely proud to be a part of this team and to do something that hasn’t been done around here. I’m just extremely grateful for the opportunities with my teammates and my coaches.”