Goodbye ‘Guins

By Dylan Lux / The Jambar

An abrupt end to the season came in the second round of the 2024 Horizon League Basketball Championships for the Youngstown State University men’s basketball team.

After a 14-6 record in the Horizon League, YSU earned the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament.

In round one, Cleveland State University defeated Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, setting up the No. 7 vs No. 2 matchup with YSU in Beeghly Center on March 7.

Fifth-year senior DJ Burns played for Murray State University before transferring to Youngstown State. Burns played in March Madness and advanced to the second round during the 2021-2022 season with the Racers.

Burns said his experience was invaluable, especially on a team that has never been to the NCAA Tournament.

“You have to understand it, first of all — you have to embrace it,” Burns said. “My experience in the past with Murray State and to have an NCAA Tournament team helps me now … just having the pressure relief of knowing what [the postseason] looks like.”

Cleveland State was without leading scorer senior forward Tristan Enaruna, who averaged 20 points per game.

There were five lead changes and five ties in the first half, as the Vikings went up at halftime 44-38.

The ‘Guins shot 2-13 in the first half from three, while the Vikings ended at 5-10.

The Penguins lowered the CSU lead to four points with 4:15 left in the contest, which was the closest margin the Vikings allowed.

Youngstown State was eliminated from the Horizon League tournament in the second round by Cleveland State, 82-70.

Head coach Jerrod Calhoun said the Vikings stepped up without their leading scorer and credited the team’s culture.
“Those other kids stepped up, but that’s who Cleveland State is. They got a great culture,” Calhoun said. “They play really hard — they made big plays and that’s what happens in the tournament.”

Leading the game in points and rebounds for YSU was Burns with 17 points and 18 rebounds. Burns finished the season with 22 double-doubles, which placed him third in the nation as of March 10.

Fifth-year senior Brandon Rush put together a 15-point performance to go along with a steal in his last game in Beeghly Center.

Two of the top-three scorers for the Penguins were fifth-year seniors Ziggy Reid and Brett Thompson, who both shot 3-10 from the field and had a combined 1-12 from beyond the arc.

The Penguins finished the season 22-10 overall, going 8-7 on the road and 14-3 at home.

Youngstown State is in contention for the National Invitational Tournament or the College Basketball Invitational Tournament.

Both brackets will be released at 6 p.m. on March 17 after the Selection Show, which will decide who makes the NCAA Tournament. The NIT competitors will be announced at 9:30 p.m. the same day.