By John Ostapowicz
The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team took a trip north to Cleveland on Friday, Jan. 21 to take on Horizon League opponent Cleveland State University. It was a close game, but Youngstown State ultimately fell short at 64-61.
The last time the Penguins played the team was Sunday, Jan. 9 at home, where they fell short 86-80.
The men’s basketball team’s defense was fundamental in keeping the game within reach. The team was able to score 21 points off turnovers.
When these two teams last faced each other, Youngstown State committed 14 turnovers and allowed 14 points off them. In the recent matchup, the team struggled again to protect the ball with 13 turnovers.
Youngstown State’s standout player, junior guard Dwayne Cohill, was able to keep the game competitive by scoring 20 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals. Cohill came out firing on all cylinders as he helped cut a 10-point second-half deficit with a chance to win the ball game.
Besides Cohill having a strong performance on the court, senior guard Tevin Olison had a pivotal second-half that helped keep the game within three points. Olison scored 18 points, six rebounds, one assist and two steals.
The men’s basketball team then traveled to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to take on another conference opponent, University of Purdue Fort Wayne, on Sunday, Jan 23.
Purdue Fort Wayne overwhelmed the Penguins by forcing 17 turnovers. Off those turnovers, the Mastodons scored 29 points.
Despite turnovers being the biggest factor in the loss, sophomore forward William Dunn had his second-best career game in the matchup. He had an impressive all-around game as he was a perfect 8-for-8 in the paint and 3-for-3 beyond the arc, putting up 20 points.
With the losses to both Cleveland State and Purdue Fort Wayne, this allowed the two teams to have a season sweep against the Penguins.
In response to the losses on the road, Youngstown State men’s basketball head coach Jerrod Calhoun said he thinks the team is right where he wants them in terms of playmaking, but the team has to stay the course to win games.
“All the games we’ve lost were right there. Bottom line, we’re a play or a rebound away,” Calhoun said.
The men’s basketball team took Calhoun’s words to heart as it took on both the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay on Thursday, Jan. 27 and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Saturday, Jan. 29 at the Beeghly Center, completing Youngstown State’s season sweep of both teams.
Green Bay had no answers for the Penguins’ dominant performance in the paint as the team scored 32 points, which helped lead the team past the opposing team 63-50.
Cohill was a huge factor in the game with 18 points alongside his teammate Dunn, who scored 11 points and eight rebounds. Senior forward Michael Akuchie dominated with 13 points and seven rebounds.
After the game, Akuchie stated that the team is halfway through conference play and that it has to take advantage of every opportunity available.
“These next games mean a lot as far as seating and taking advantage of every opportunity, especially every game we have to play,” he said.
In regard to taking advantage of every opportunity, Akuchie did just that against Milwaukee, scoring a career-high 33 points, 22 of them coming in the first half, leading his team to victory 86-72.
His strong performance earned him the Nike Horizon League Men’s Basketball Player of the Week.
During the post-game press conference, Akuchie was adamant about the amount of confidence his coaches had in him going into the game, which fueled his 33-point game.
“I think them reiterating the amount of confidence they have in me — that helps me out tremendously, more than they know,” Akuchie said.
The Youngstown State men’s basketball team face off against Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis tonight in Indianapolis then travel to Chicago to match up against the University of Illinois Chicago tomorrow, Feb. 5. To listen or watch the game, check out 570 WKBN or ESPN+.