By Kyle Wills
Youngstown State University had five players score in double figures and led for more than 35 minutes in a 74-58 victory over UIC in the opening round of the 2021 Progressive Insurance Horizon League Men’s Basketball Championship on Thursday at Beeghly Center.
Senior Michael Akuchie scored a game-high 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season, and YSU’s other four starters also scored in double figures. Senior Naz Bohannon had 15 points and six assists, junior Darius Quisenberry scored 12, and senior Garrett Covington and freshman Shemar Rathan-Mayes both had 10 points. Akuchie and Rathan-Mayes combined for 17 points in the first half as Youngstown State built a 35-25 lead at halftime.
The men shot 48.4% overall from the field, and it went 8-for-23 from 3-point range. UIC shot 45.3%, but they committed twice as many turnovers as the Penguins, 18-9. The largest margin was 74-56 on a layup by Quisenberry with 27 seconds left.
During Thursday’s post-game press conference, Akuchie talked about how he needed to contribute to the team during the game.
“On the court, my mindset was like what Coach said before,” he said. “Obviously, I knew I had to be better guarding the bigs tonight, so going into the game I had to make sure I’m doing my work early. I had this convo all last year where I got in foul trouble. I was making sure I was smart, making sure I was boxing out, making sure I was doing the little things and just keeping my mind consistent.”
YSU advanced to the conference tournament to play third-seed Oakland in the quarterfinals this past Tuesday. The Penguins entered Tuesday 15-11 on the season.
Bohannon posted the first triple-double in program history and Covington scored a career-high 30 points, but the YSU men’s basketball team fell 87-83 in overtime to Oakland in the quarterfinals of the Horizon League Men’s Basketball Championship. The Penguins fall to 15-12 while the Golden Grizzlies improve to 11-17 and advance to the semifinals.
Bohannon made program history with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. He connected on 5-of-8 from the floor and 4-of-5 from the free-throw line. Covington was 12-of-21 from the floor and tied a career-high with five 3-pointers, six rebounds and three assists. Quisenberry scored 18 points and dished out six assists while freshman Rathan-Mayes added 10 points.
Bohannon’s three-point play with 1:41 remaining gave the Penguins a 73-71 lead before Oakland tied the game at 73-73. Quisenberry’s game-winning attempt was short.
Quisenberry hit a 3-pointer to open the overtime period and a Covington jumper gave the Penguins a 78-76 lead. Oakland scored 8 straight points over the next two minutes to take an 84-78 lead with 50 seconds left. Covington hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game to get the Penguins within a possession, 86-83, but the Golden Grizzlies made a free throw with 10 seconds left to seal the victory.