By Cameron Stubbs
The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team has been on a hot streak as of late, putting up its best winning streak since the first week of December. The streak is now at four straight and the team is looking to continue its success.
The faceoff Feb. 3 against Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, a team Youngstown State split the season series with in last year’s matchups, resulted in a 61-55 win.
Four players reached double figures, led by junior Dwayne Cohill with 14 points.
Senior forward Michael Akuchie secured his fourth double-double of the season by scoring 11 points while grabbing 10 rebounds.
Sophomore Myles Hunter scored 12 points in his second straight game and fellow sophomore Shemar Rathan-Mayes also contributed 11 points.
IUPUI is 2-18 and 0-9 in Horizon League play, but it put up a valiant effort against Youngstown State by putting up a better shooting percentage, as well as out-rebounding the Penguins.
The Jaguars shot 46% from the field and grabbed 34 rebounds compared to the 29 the Penguins had. IUPUI was led by graduate student guard B.J. Maxwell, who scored 22 points. Jaguars sophomore guard Bakari LaStrap led them with 10 rebounds.
Youngstown State overcame the losses in the shooting percentage and rebounding battles with attacking inside the key and drawing fouls. Being able to get to the line 20 times was a big factor as the Penguins knocked down 16 free throws. Rathan-Mayes scored 10 of his 11 points by free throws.
The difference in points off turnovers won Youngstown State the game as it created 17 turnovers and scored 16 points from them. This was the killing blow for IUPUI, as it only had 2 points from 10 turnovers.
Head coach Jerrod Calhoun discussed the team’s success as a whole in a recent press conference.
“We’re excited about the opportunity — our team has gotten better over a month — I think the kids have really locked in and bought into the gameplans, and you’re seeing us execute those, but we understand the competition that awaits. It’s a great opportunity for the fans of Youngstown State to watch this team,” Calhoun said.
Youngstown State’s game against the University of Illinois Chicago on Feb. 5 was much closer down the stretch. It came down to the final seconds, which resulted in a close 66-64 win. The Penguins split this season series last year as well.
Senior Tevin Olison led Youngstown State with 21 points while Cohill followed right behind him with 19 points. Akuchie recorded his second straight double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, and it was his fifth overall this season.
Multiple leads were surrendered by both teams as there were 16 total lead changes. Neither team led by more than 9 points.
The Flames were led by junior guard Damaria Franklin, who scored 23 points.
The game came down to the last seconds where a missed free throw by the Flames was secured by the Penguins’ lead scorer Olison.
Youngstown State won the rebound battle this game, but the biggest factor overall was the points in the paint difference.
The Penguins scored 44 points in the paint — 24 more points than the Flames — and set an aggressive agenda going forward.
Calhoun described the team’s feeling of playoff chances in light of its recent victories.
“These are real meaningful, impactful games that will impact where we finish up in this league, do we finish top four, do we get that first round bye. There’s a lot at stake, [Youngstown State] has a chance to punch their ticket for a postseason tournament, at this level the CIT and the CBI. Those are really important for the development of our program,” he said.
The men’s basketball team returned home to Beeghly Center to host the University of Oakland to start it’s five game homestand. For news, stats and highlights, visit www.ysusports.com
Next up on the schedule, Youngstown State will take on University of Detroit Mercy at 7 p.m. Feb. 11 at home in Beeghly Center. Tickets are available now, or catch the game on ESPN+ or 570 WKBN.