By Cameron Niemi
The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team continued Horizon League play at home for two straight games and then hit the road for two more matchups.
YSU hosted first place Purdue University Fort Wayne on Jan. 10 and won by a final of 93-85 as the team picked up its second consecutive win and fourth win in the conference.
Youngstown State had three fifth-year players who scored over 20 points for the first time since 2001. Brett Thompson led the way with 24 points and seven assists. Ziggy Reid had 23 points with two blocks, and Brandon Rush scored 20 and grabbed six rebounds.
The Penguins were selected to host an ESPN2 game inside the Beeghly Center to kickoff Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend Jan 12.
YSU secured an 81-71 victory on national TV over conference foe Wright State University, who came into the game averaging 86.1 points per game.
Wright State held the lead for the majority of the first half and went into halftime up 34-32 on the Penguins.
In the second half, the Raiders extended their lead to nine points with under 10 minutes to play. Youngstown State then went on a 20-2 run and didn’t look back as the team took a 10-point lead with three minutes to play.
Reid and Thompson led the team as they each scored 20 points and combined for 15 rebounds. Fifth-year DJ Burns scored his 1000th career point as he added 12 points and 6 rebounds. Freshman Gabe Dynes had seven rebounds and a team-high six blocks.
The Penguins won their fifth conference game of the season and moved to 10-1 at home.
Head coach Jerrod Calhoun spoke about the impact fans had inside the Beeghly Center for the team’s third straight win.
“Tonight was a home court advantage. It was spectacular. Hopefully, the people nationwide see what our program’s about,” Calhoun said. “These people care about hoops, they care about football and all our sports. It’s a sports town. It’s a good place to coach and a fun place to be.”
The team traveled to Michigan for two games. Rush talked about the upcoming games and what the team needs to do to continue the momentum of the three-game win streak.
“Just stay positive, going into practice every single day with the same mindset,” Rush said. “Going into practice every single day competing is how we keep that momentum going.”
YSU played Oakland University on Jan. 17. The Golden Grizzlies defeated the Penguins for the second time this season by a final of 70-67.
The ‘Guins held a 31-28 point lead at the half. Both teams traded baskets throughout the second half despite the Grizzlies retaking the lead. With under three minutes to play, Youngtown cut its deficit to one, but Oakland refused to be stopped on offense as it snapped YSU’s win streak.
With a quick turnaround Jan. 20, the Penguins bounced back with a 105-64 victory over the winless University of Detroit Mercy. This marked Youngstown State’s largest margin of victory over a Horizon League opponent.
YSU had five players score double figures and every player on the team scored at least three points. Reid led the team with 22 points as he shot 3-of-3 beyond the arc, and junior EJ Farmer had 18 points. The team shot 63.3% from the field and 53.8% from three.
The team improved to 14-6 on the season and 6-3 in the Horizon League, which has the Penguins tied for third place.
ESPN announced Jan. 18 that the Penguins will be featured on ESPNU at 9 p.m. on Feb. 1 at Wright State.
YSU will hit the road at 7 p.m. on Jan. 25 to play Indiana-University Purdue University Indianapolis. To watch the game, visit ESPN+ or listen on 570 WKBN.