By Rick Henneman
Youngstown State University (10-13, 4-6 Horizon League) entered the annual Coaches versus Cancer Suits and Sneakers Game against Cleveland State University (6-16, 2-8 HL). CSU was looking to rebound after an overtime loss against Milwaukee.
YSU defeated CSU 67-64.
CSU was hot right from tip-off, opening the game on a 14-2 run. YSU guard Brett Frantz scored the first ten points for YSU to cut the CSU lead to four with 15:32 left in the first half.
“I’m more comfortable overall,” Frantz said. “I started a few games last year and some earlier this year. I’m more comfortable and just trying to play my game. I take shots when I have them. It’s helping out a little bit.”
After a deep three from CSU junior Bobby Word, YSU’s Cameron Morse went on a run of his own. Morse scored 11 of YSU’s next 13 points and his 3-pointer with 6:41 to go in the half gave the Penguins their first lead of the game.
YSU entered the halftime break leading 33-29.
The Penguins came out of the locker room with a sense of urgency and opened the second half on an 11-0 run. CSU was held scoreless until 15:29 left in the second half. Frantz credited the great start to the chemistry of the starting lineup.
“We were just doing well; Coach was calling the right plays,” Frantz said. “This lineup that we have been playing lately plays really hard. That is always going to give you the chance to win. As long as we do that we will be fine going forward.”
Morse hit a mid-range jumper with 11:47 left in the game to extend YSU’s lead to 14. CSU began to claw their way back into the game and outscored YSU 18-5 over the next seven minutes to cut the Penguins lead to one.
YSU head coach Jerry Slocum was impressed with how Cleveland State battled back in the second half.
“We had them [CSU] in a good position, but give them credit, they fought hard,” Slocum said. “They did a good job defensively. We made some mistakes and they sped us up for a couple turnovers. We had eight in the second half and that’s too many.”
With three minutes left in the game, the Vikings seemed to be ready to pull ahead when YSU junior Francisco Santiago had the ball stolen by CSU’s Kasheem Thomas. In a play reminiscent of the 2016 NBA Finals, Thomas was breaking towards the basket for an easy layup only to be blocked by Santiago who chased him down from behind.
Morse grabbed the rebound off of the block and made a cross court pass to Frantz who hit a deep three to take a 63-57 lead.
“It started out when he [Santiago] got pressured and I came to relieve him.” Frantz said about the play, “The ball got bobbled and they stole it. ‘Cisco is one of the hardest working guys on the team, he’ll never give up. After that I raised my hand to Cam, he threw it to me and I just shot it. I hoped it went in and it did.”
Slocum said that the block followed by the three was the turning point late in the second half.
“I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard our crowd louder than when Frantz made the three,” Slocum said. “That was a great environment tonight. Those two plays were the defining moments in the game.”
It wasn’t over yet for the Penguins however, CSU brought the game within three and had the ball with eight seconds left in the game. Word missed a contested three with four seconds to go and YSU won 67-64.
YSU will next face Oakland in the second of three consecutive home games on February 2 at 7:00 p.m.