By John Ostapowicz
The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team went to work over a four-game homestand at the Beeghly Center, rounding out the winter break with a record of 3-1, Dec. 29, 2022, through Jan. 7, 2023. During the stretch, two players reached 1,000 career points.
While Youngstown State students were home over the break, the men’s basketball team took on Cleveland State University on Dec. 29. The Penguins downed the Vikings 85-71, after an exceptional defensive effort.
However, the offense helped guide Youngstown State to victory with a historic performance from senior Brandon Rush with 21 points, including his 1,000th career point.
During the first 10 minutes of play, the Penguins held the lead for only 42 seconds before heading into the locker room and went on to score 46 more points in the second half.
The win marks the first time Youngstown State has defeated Cleveland State since 2020, and marks the 45th win against the Vikings.
With Beeghly Center’s limited capacity removed, crowds of fans created an electric atmosphere for the doubleheader, according to head coach Jerrod Calhoun.
“We’ve kind of been robbed over the last few years, with the crowds [because of] COVID, two years ago we played with nobody in the stands,” Calhoun said. “To see this city get behind our men’s team and women’s team, I mean I felt the vibe when I walked in the building.”
With the momentum on the Penguin’s side, the men’s basketball team looked to secure another victory, but fell short against Purdue University Fort Wayne on Dec. 31, 76-71.
In a nail-biting finish, the Mastodons offense rallied late, neutralizing the Penguins defensive efforts.
For Purdue Fort Wayne, senior Damian Chong Qui overwhelmed the Penguins with his 24-point scoring run to go along with eight 3-pointers in the first half.
With the loss, Calhoun commented on how the Mastodons have turned their program around and have built a winning culture since coming into the Horizon League on July 1, 2020.
“They do it to us every year, a hard team to play against, [I have] a lot of respect for this team,” Calhoun said. “Now you’re seeing a bunch of players who played with each other for five years. And there is a cohesion, communication and understanding of where the ball needs to go.”
Over a two-game span, Rush scored double-digit points with a game-high 26 points. The offensive push was also led by senior Dwayne Cohill and graduate student Malek Green with 19 and 12 points, respectively.
With the new year in full swing, the Penguins got back into the win column against Robert Morris University on Jan. 5. The men’s passing efforts overwhelmed the Colonials en route to a 78-59 victory.
The Youngstown State offense continued its dominant performance, which was led by Cohill with 23 points. Behind him, Rush compiled 14 points while Green added 12 points.
The Penguins defense stayed stout throughout the game with the Colonials longest scoring margin being six points.
With the offense back on track, the men’s basketball team secured an impressive win over Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis on Jan. 7, 105-74.
The facilitation of offense was orchestrated by freshman John Lovelace Jr. who scored a team-high 16 points, with a career-high four 3-pointers. Cohill followed suit, having a career night, recording a double-double with 13 points and a career-high 10 assists.
Cohill also etched a historical milestone by recording 1,000 points in his college career.
“I mean it’s good, I’m proud of myself to score 1,000 [points]” Cohill said. “But it doesn’t really matter, I had 10 assists today.”
To round out the afternoon, two school single-game records were broken. Nine different players made at least one 3-pointer, contributing to 18 made 3-pointers and 33 assists.
With the win, Youngstown State improves to 12-5 overall and 4-2 in Horizon League play. With six conference games played, the Penguins are seeded third in the Horizon League standings.
With the conclusion of the four-game stint, Youngstown State leads the Horizon League in total offense with 84.9 points per game. The Penguins are also ranked 13th in the NCAA standings in total offense.
Although the Penguins are on top offensively, their defense is ranked sixth in the Horizon League, allowing 72.4 PPG.
The men’s basketball team is back in action Jan. 12 against University of Detroit Mercy in Detroit, Michigan. For more information on this game, visit ysusports.com. To view and listen to the matchup, check out ESPN+ and 570 WKBN.