By Will Clark
The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team has lost six straight games against the University of Akron. But the Penguins upset the Zips 90-82 on Saturday night to pick up their first win over Akron since 1994.
From the beginning of the game YSU and the Zips jumped out to a strong start, Akron had a hard time coming up with an answer for YSU’s Matt Dolan and Cameron Morse. Dolan scored the Penguins first points from behind the arc, he kept up the long range attack, shooting 3 for 5 from behind the 3-point line in the first half.
“I think for me, if I can make the game hot, I want too. For me I was just trying to read my defender,” Dolan said. “He was little bit bigger and slower, so I was able to get up in the air a little bit faster and shoot my shot. I didn’t have to force my shot and I think the offense flowed well tonight.”
Morse led YSU with 10 points in the first half. He was the only Penguin who scored double digits in the first half.
Even with such a fiery start from both teams, and the Penguins going toe-to-toe with Zips, YSU struggled to keep up with the Zips offensive tempo.
Late in the first half the Penguins went on a 6-0 run, cutting the Zips 11-point lead down to find five. Akron took a 41-36 lead into the half.
Dolan and Morse were able to keep up the offensive pressure and change the momentum of the game early in the second half. Dolan hit the first three and cut the Zips’ lead to four. Morse was able to follow him up hitting two additional three’s and gave the Penguins a 47-45 lead.
The Penguins were able to find some additional help from point guard Francisco Santiago, who stole the ball off the Zips and hustled up the court to score on a layup and also got fouled. Santiago converted from the free-throw line to give the Penguins a 10-point lead.
Akron tried rallying back multiple times throughout the second half, but YSU was able to kept their foot on the throat of the Zips.
In much of the second half the Penguins picked up the pressure on defense and causing the Zips to turn the ball over nine times.
“I thought we did a tremendous job in second half defensively, we did a good job rebounding the ball after the first seven minutes,” YSU head coach Jerry Slocum said. “They had seven offensive rebounds in the first six [minutes] in a half minutes they finished with 12, so they had 5 rebounds in the last 30 minutes.
YSU also stepped up their shooting, going 54 percent from the field. Three Penguins finished the night with double-digit points Santiago had 15 points, Donlan with 20 points, and Morse with a game-high 27.
The Zips did give the Penguins a scare late in the second half after cutting the lead down to one. But Morse converted on back-to-back layups to increase YSU’s lead to five.
Santiago put the nail in the coffin with an alley-oop pass to forward Rahim Williams to give YSU an 84-77 lead.
“I just thought our guys showed poise,” Slocum said. “These guys have been in this war and in this fight, experience is a big factor and I thought it [showed] tonight, our guys showed great character.”
The win wasn’t the only positive for YSU on Saturday. The season opener was a part of the Northeast Ohio Coaches vs Cancer tournament. All the proceeds went to the American Cancer Society.
“The event we put on tonight was really special. We were able to raise a lot of money for some people in need,” Donlan said. “This is obviously a foundation that is very close to my heart I’ve had a lot of people affected by this. I think a lot people on our team have, and to come here and put a good performance is really special to us.”
YSU’s next game will be at the University of Toledo at 8 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPN3.
Akron 82, YSU 90
Akron (0-1) — Isaiah Johnson 6-5-17, Jimond Ivey 5-3-14, Kwan Cheatham Jr. 5-1-13, Tavian Dunn-Martin 4-2-12, Noah Robotham 4-0-10, Josh Williams 2-1-6, Antino Jackson 2-0-5, Aaron Jackson 1-0-3, Michael Hughes 0-2-2. Totals: 29-14-82.
YSU (1-0) — Cameron Morse 10-4-27, Matt Donlan 6-2-20, Francisco Santiago 6-3-15, Rahim Williams 4-0-9, Brett Frantz 2-2-7, Jorden Kaufman 1-2-4, Devin Haygood 2-0-4, Latin Davis 1-0-2, Stefan Rosic 1-0-2. Totals: 33-13-90.
3-point field goals: Akron 10 (Cheatham Jr. 2, Robotham 2, Dunn-Martin 2, Williams, Antino Jackson, Ivey, Aaron Jackson); YSU 11 (Donlan 6, Morse 3, Williams, Frantz).
Rebounds: Akron 38 (Ivey 9, Johnson 7, Williams 4, Robotham 4, Aaron Jackson 4, Cheatham 2, Antino Jackson 2, Hughes, Team 5); YSU 37 (Kaufman 8, Williams 5, Donlan 4, Frantz 4, Santiago 3, Morse 2, Haygood 2, Braun Hartfield, Davis, Team 7).
Turnovers: Akron 14 (Antino Jackson 3, Robothman 3, Johnson 2, Cheatham 2, Ivey 2, Williams, Aaron Jackson); YSU 9 (Morse 3, Santiago 2, Donlan, Kaufman, Davis, Frantz).