By Marc Weems
With Youngstown State University (11-18, 5-11 Horizon League) coming off a tough loss to Wright State University on February 16, YSU would look to bounce back against Northern Kentucky University (18-10, 9-6 HL) on Senior Night.
YSU had all four seniors start the game with Matt Donlan, Brett Frantz, Jorden Kaufman, and Tyler Warford. YSU won 81-77.
Coming into this game, both teams were on opposite ends of the world. YSU has lost its’ last six of seven games while NKU has won its’ last six of seven games.
NKU came out firing as they build a decent lead on YSU. NKU guard Jordan Garnett started early as he scored the Norse’s first five points. Kaufman was feeling himself early on as he scored six of YSU’s first ten points.
YSU led 14-13 with 11:34 left in the first half after a Francisco Santiago 3-pointer. Dantez Walton helped NKU keep close as he hit two 3-pointers in the first half. YSU outscored NKU 30-10 in the paint.
“I thought the game was won on the defensive end even though we gave up 77 points,” YSU head coach Jerry Slocum said. “The ball got shared a lot. We had 19 assists and just six turnovers. Sometimes, when they play a shard as they did, it’s good for the team in terms of sharing the ball.”
Everything was back and forth throughout the first half. Garnett led NKU with nine points. Kaufman led YSU with 12 points as the Penguins led NKU 41-40. YSU only shot two free throws in the half.
“I think for us this was a game that was a long time coming,” Donlan said. “It was really nice for us to get over the hump and a couple plays that went our way.”
YSU seemed to lose some of its energy to start the second half as YSU took a timeout with 48-46 with 16:33 left in the game. Carson Williams led NKU’s charge as he scored four points in the first three minutes.
From that point, NKU started to build a larger lead. NKU went on a 9-6 run that included a huge dunk from NKU’s Lavone Holland II. NKU led 57-52 at that point.
Just a few possessions later for YSU, Santiago hit a 3-pointer to pull them within 2 followed by a Devin Haygood dunk that led to a NKU timeout. The game was tied at 59 with 10:06 left.
With 3:46 left, NKU led YSU 74-72 behind Matt Donlan’s 14 points and five rebounds. Just two possessions later, Cameron Morse hit a jumper to pull within one.
Slocum said that he thought that Morse did an outstanding job considering he didn’t shoot greatly. He had seven assists and zero turnovers to go with 20 points.
With YSU leading 76-75, Morse converted a 3-point play YSU up 79-75 with two minutes left. On that foul, Garnett drew his fifth foul and was out of the game with nine points and four rebounds.
After a missed Devin Haygood dunk, Matt Donlan had a huge block on a NKU fast break.
YSU still led 79-75 with one minute left. A Morse bucket and Santiago steal helped give the Penguins an 81-77 lead.
After that, Haygood blocked a corner three that would’ve pulled the game to within one.
YSU won 81-77.