By Dan Hiner
As the college basketball season rolls along the Youngstown State University men’s basketball team found itself playing its last non-conference matchup for the year. The Penguins won its game against the Northern Kentucky University Norse 78-74.
It wasn’t smooth sailing to the Penguins. YSU had trouble stopping the Norse offense in the first half. NKU continued to attack the basket eventually leading to wide open 3-point shots later in the half. The Norse outscored the Penguins 18-12 in the paint during the first half. YSU went into halftime trailing 41-40 after missing out on a couple opportunities to tie the game.
“I kinda got off to a slow start in the first half. I missed my first two hook shots, but then I just had to get it going. The team got me the ball,” center Bobby Hain said.
The second half was a different story as the Penguin defense held NKU to 39.4% shooting from the field. NKU’s star freshman guard Tayler Persons came in averaging 17 points per game over the last five games. YSU held Persons to 15 points and forced him to commit three turnovers.
“I though Osandai [Vaughn] did a great job on their freshman kid that over the last four or five games averaged about 20 points per game and I think he got what I call insignificant points in the last minute and a half,” head coach Jerry Slocum said. “I think he had about five points—now I don’t know how many points he had, but in the beginning of the second half to the 12 minute media timeout, which was eight minutes, we held him scoreless and I think that was a good thing for us.”
After struggling to begin the game Hain controlled the game in the second half. Offensive and defensively the Penguins’ center used his 6-10 frame to create an interior presence. Whether it was attempting layups or blocking shots Hain asserted himself against the Norse.
“He’s getting a lot more aggressive, a lot more confidence and a lot more belief in who he is,” Slocum said. “What makes him so hard to guard is the fact that he can step out and make jump shots like he did today. He’s a really good passer out of the post. So teams try to trap him in there, they haven’t had any success, and our other guys have gotten the benefit of it.”
Hain scored six of the Penguins 12 points to end the game. The offensive spark provided by Hain allowed YSU to continue to the lead late in the game.
“He’s pretty good isn’t he? That dude’s pretty good. He made obviously a big basket for us when it mattered,” Slocum said.
As conference play approaches the Penguins will have to put more of an emphasis on defense. Hain believes the team’s defensive performance against NKU could be a game the Penguins could build on.
“I feel like we are getting better every day. Today we did pretty well on defense. In the second half today we held them to 37%. So we just gotta keep putting emphasis on defense,” Hain said.
The Penguins will look to win their third game in a row on Friday 1/2 as they travel to Chicago to play the University of Chicago.