Wisconsin-Milwaukee guard Ronnie Jones had 33 points as the Panthers outplayed Youngstown State.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Welcome to the Horizon Basketball League.
The Youngstown State University men's team kicked off its first season in the new league Wednesday night and the results weren't pretty.
The Penguins were never in the game against Wisconsin-Milwaukee and dropped their league opener 77-55 before 1,523 fans at Beeghly Center.
One of the reasons the Penguins were never in the game was because of 5-foot-9 senior guard Ronnie Jones, who led the Panthers and all scorers with 33 points, including a phenomenal 10 of 12 shooting from 3-point range. His 10 3-point goals tied a school record and was the second-best effort in Horizon League history.
Jones connected on his first eight 3-pointers and helped the Panthers (6-7, 1-0) lead from the opening bucket, and they were never seriously threatened by the Penguins (2-9, 0-1).
"Milwaukee exemplifies the type of team that's in the Horizon League," said YSU coach John Robic. "It wasn't a pretty display of basketball by us tonight, but we are going to get better.
"Jones killed us, he broke the game open," Robic added. "Our effort wasn't good tonight."
Pressure a problem: If Jones wasn't enough of a problem for the Penguins, then the Panthers pressing defense really sealed the victory.
"One thing about pressure defense is that it forces the opponent out of their regular offensive play," said Milwaukee coach Bruce Pearl.
"Youngstown runs such a variety of offensive looks and we had to keep them from setting them up," Pearl added. "The times that we let them set up they were very effective."
Robic agreed with Pearl.
"I think that our kids learned that you don't have to be talented to defend; all you have to do is want to guard somebody," Robic said.
"You can't coach effort and we didn't give the effort needed tonight," he added. "But I know that we are going to give a better effort Saturday night."
The Penguins finished with just two players in double figure, led by freshman Brian Radakovich and sophomore TeJay Anderson with 13 points apiece. Freshman Jimmy Moore added nine points and freshman Doug Underwood chipped in with seven.
The Penguins were beaten 36-23 on the boards, while Anderson led YSU with six. Senior Ryan Patton had his worst game of the season, scoring just two points, with four assists in 26 minutes.
The Panthers shot 54.2 percent from the field, making 26 of 48 and were 56 percent from 3-point range on 14 of 25. YSU hit on 20 of 50 shots and was just 1-of-7 from 3-point range.
First surge: Jones set the stage for the night when he drilled home the game's first 3-point goal with 19:35 remaining. The Panthers took an 8-0 lead before YSU closed to 8-6 at the 17-minute mark.
Milwaukee scored the next seven points for a 15-6 advantage and followed that with an 11-4 run to pull ahead 26-10. UW-Milwaukee led 43-22 at halftime.
Radakovich scored the first two points in the second half for the Penguins, but the Panthers scored the next eight for a 51-24 edge.
Jones' 10th 3-point goal came with 7:38 remaining and it gave him 33 points, while the Penguins had totaled just 34 points at that time.
Milwaukee's biggest lead of the game was 33 points with 4:05 remaining, 73-40, when Pearl emptied his bench.
YSU will return to action Saturday night at Beeghly Center. The Penguins will meet Wright State at 7:35 in the second game of a doubleheader. The YSU women will take on Butler in the first game at 5:15.