Penguins’ defense prevails

DJ Burns and Ziggy Reid celebrate a win at home. Photo by Dylan Lux / The Jambar

By Marissa Masano

The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team went 2-0 in its recent Horizon League games against Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis and Northern Kentucky University. 

The Penguins traveled to Indiana Farmers Coliseum on Jan. 25. With a strong defensive effort, the team defeated the Jaguars, 78-50.

Fifth-year senior DJ Burns recorded his 11th double-double of the season with 16 points and 13 rebounds, while fellow fifth-year senior Ziggy Reid added 16 points. Junior EJ Farmer was the next-highest scorer with 15.

The Penguins never trailed throughout the game as they forced 13 turnovers and blocked 10 shots. Sophomore Imanuel Zorgvol accounted for half the team’s blocks, with a career-high of five. 

YSU entered halftime with a 15-point lead and scored the first 10 points of the second half. The Jaguars surged on a 12-0 run to get back within nine points, but it was not enough as the Penguins created a 25-point advantage late in the half to secure the victory. 

The victory marked the sixth time since joining the Horizon League that Youngstown State allowed 50 points or less in a conference game. 

The Penguins returned home to Beeghly Center on Jan. 28 to face Northern Kentucky. YSU defeated the Norse, 82-52, with a solid second-half performance. 

Burns recorded his 12th double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Four other Penguins were in double figures. Reid posted 18 points, Farmer posted 12 points and fifth-year seniors Brandon Rush and Brett Thompson recorded 10 points each.

Brett Thompson watches as his 3-pointer heads toward the hoop. Photo by Dylan Lux / The Jambar

The Penguins had a total of 29 points off the bench compared to the Norse’s 17 points. 

Brett Thompson watches as his 3-pointer heads toward the hoop. Photo by Dylan Lux / The Jambar

For Burns, the team is taking form as the intensity of February basketball approaches. 

“This team is really becoming its own. Everybody’s comfortable in what they do and loves what they do. And as you can see, [that’s] what happens when everybody loves to play their role to an exceptional extent,” Burns said. 

The Penguin’s second half was consistent both offensively and defensively. The Norse could not score for the first five minutes of the second half and were held to just 21 points. 

Head coach Jerrod Calhoun said the Penguins are beginning to rely on defense to win games. 

“Everything was going to start and end with our defense. That’s where we’re at with this group, and we talked about it. If we can guard, we can beat anybody in the conference, so I thought we sustained it for the full 40 minutes from start to finish,” Calhoun said. 

On the offensive side, the Penguins shot 52% as a team and built a 30-point lead with under four minutes to play. 

With the victory, Youngstown improves to 8-3 in Horizon League play and 16-6 overall. 

The team will travel to the Nutter Center on Feb. 1 to face Wright State University. The televised tipoff is slated for 9 p.m. on ESPNU.