By John Ostapowicz
The number one seeded Youngstown State University men’s basketball team secured a spot in the Barbasol Horizon League Men’s Basketball Championship Semifinals for the first time since the 2016-17 season.
The Penguins accomplished the feat with an impressive win over The University of Detroit Mercy at Beeghly Center on March 2. Youngstown State held the Titans to zero field goals for the final four minutes of the second half, rounding out a 71-66 victory.
Beeghly Center was packed with 5,584 attendees to watch the high-scoring Penguins offense. The crowd was the largest since 2013.
The Youngstown State offense was fueled by graduate student Adrian Nelson with 20 points, while senior Dwayne Cohill added 17 to the scoring total.
“From experience, I know what it takes to get to the final four and win a championship,” Nelson said. “I had to make sure I picked up my level of play and I knew everyone else would follow.”
For Detroit Mercy, senior Antoine Davis finished the game 3 points shy of Pete Maravich’s NCAA career scoring record and now ranks second all-time with 3,665 points.
With the win, the men’s basketball team traveled to Indianapolis to the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The Penguins played the first game of the final four against the University of Northern Kentucky on March 6.
In the last semifinals appearance for the Penguins in the 2016-17 season, they lost to Northern Kentucky, 74-84.
In a deja vu moment, Youngstown State fell to the Norse, 63-75. The team tried to recuperate with a second-half effort but came up short.
The Penguins’ scoring effort was led by Nelson with 17 points and 13 rebounds, as he recorded another double-double. Cohill followed suit with a 16-point effort before fouling out with 5:40 remaining in regulation.
In response to his performance, Cohill said he could have done more for the team and could have helped facilitate a victory.
“I don’t think we made enough plays,” Cohill said. “We were stagnant in the first half.”
Trailing by 22 points in the second half, Youngstown State fired back and got within four points at the 4:44 mark. The four-point margin was the closest the Penguins came to securing a lead.
After the game, head coach Jerrod Calhoun commented on how the team fell short but was pleased with how far the team has come.
“These guys, you have nothing to be ashamed of. You accomplished a lot and won a regular season title,” Calhoun said.
For the season, the Penguins fell to 24-9 overall, tying the most wins in program history.
Despite the loss, Youngstown State will earn an automatic bid to the National Invitational Tournament for the first time in program history by claiming the program’s first regular-season Horizon League regular season title.
The men’s basketball team played in the NIT on March 15 against Oklahoma State University inside Beeghly Center.
For more information on the game, check out ysusports.com