By John Ostapowicz
The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team finished its historic season with a heartbreaking loss to Oklahoma State University in the National Invitational Tournament on March 15.
Oklahoma State had five players score in double figures and defeated Youngstown State, 69-64.
The Penguins started strong in the first period and led for nearly 30 minutes. However, the Cowboys dominant effort in the final four minutes of the game overwhelmed the Youngstown State offense.
Youngstown State held the lead from the 16:39 mark of the first period until the 6:53 mark of the second.
Senior Dwayne Cohill, scored a game-high 25 points in his final collegiate game. Senior Brandon Rush added 12 points in an effort to secure a Penguin victory.
As a team, the Penguins offense found its rhythm early in the first half. 13-of-31 shots landed in the net from the field. From beyond the arc, Youngstown State made 5-of-15 and earned a nine-point lead heading into the half.
Head coach Jerrod Calhoun felt the team could have selected shots more carefully coming out of the second half and it was a deciding factor in the game.
“I thought the game was decided by us not making shots,” Calhoun said. “That was the difference.”
On the defensive side, the Penguins held Oklahoma State to 21.1% from 3-point range and 36.6% from the field.
For the Cowboys, the defense found what worked, as they held the Penguins to 23.1% from beyond the arc coming out of the locker room. Cohill spoke after the game about the second half collapse.
“We were keeping them in check,” Cohill said. “In the second half, [Oklahoma State] got 8 offensive rebounds and that was the turning point in the game.”
To finish off the season, March 14, Calhoun was named the National Association of
Basketball Coaches, District 12 Coach of the Year. He is the first coach in YSU history to earn a district Coach of the Year honor.
The accolades continued as Cohill was named to All-District honors voted on by NABC-member coaches across the NCAA Division I level.
The men’s basketball team’s historic season at the Division I level ended with a 24-10 record. The 24 victories tied the school record and ended on a positive note by earning a spot in the NIT for the first time in program history.