By Pete Mollica
Penguins falter in final minutes against Robert Morris, 72-67
YSU men overcame a 15-point deficit, but couldn’t hold off the Colonials at the end.
YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown State men’s basketball team made a gallant second-half rally Wednesday at Beeghly Center, but the effort went for naught as the Penguins suffered a 72-67 loss to Robert Morris before 1,611 fans.
It was the fifth straight loss to the Colonials and the fourth straight game which wasn’t decided until the game’s final seconds.
The Penguins (5-7) trailed the Colonials (5-7) 54-39 with about 11 minutes remaining, but rallied to tie the contest 61-61 with 4:10 remaining.
YSU led by as many as four points with 3:22 remaining.
But the Penguins scored just two points over the final three minutes as the Colonials finished the game on an 11-2 run to post the victory.
The Penguins were coming off a seven-day layoff, but YSU head coach Jerry Slocum said that had nothing to do with their performance.
“We weren’t ready,” Slocum said. “We just stood around too much early in the game and we couldn’t rebound at all tonight.”
Still, the Penguins, who trailed from the final four minutes of the first half until the final four minutes of the contest, battled back.
“We did a good job of getting back into the game,” Slocum said. “Our press really hurt them, but that’s no consolation when you don’t win.”
With the score tied at 67-67 with 1:43 remaining, the Penguins missed a wide-open shot by senior DeAndre Mays. The Colonials went right down the court and scored to take the lead.
The Penguins followed that up with two straight turnovers and found themselves trailing 70-67.
Still, they had life when Rob Robinson missed two straight free throws with 9.7 seconds left, but Dallas Green tipped the missed shot back out to Karon Abraham who was intentionally fouled with 5.3 seconds left. He sank both free throws to end YSU’s hopes.
The Penguins did shoot well from anywhere on the floor. They were 22-for-57 from the field for 38.6 percent, 6-of-17 from 3-point range and 17 of 26 at the foul line.
They also were outrebounded 44-30 including 16-8 on the offensive boards.
The Penguins finished with three players in double figures led by senior Kelvin Bright with 14. Senior Sirlester Martin added 12 and sophomore Ashen Ward had 11.
Martin and redshirt freshman Eddie D’Haiti each had eight rebounds to lead the team.
Abraham led the Colonials with 20 points while Russell Johnson had 12 points and 11 rebounds. Green chipped in with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
It was a typical game between the two teams as there were 10 lead changes and the score was tied seven times.
Eight of those lead changes came during the first 15 minutes of the first half before the Penguins hit a dry spell over the final five minutes and the Colonials went on a 12-0 run that pulled them into a 35-23 lead.
The Penguins then reeled off six straight points to cut into the lead, but Abraham hit a big 3-point shot right before the buzzer to increase the advantage to 38-29 at intermission.
The Colonials increased their lead over the first 10 minutes of the second half and pulled to their biggest margin 54-39 with 11:29 remaining.
Trailing 60-47 with 8:04 to go, the Penguins, led by two 3-pointers from Mays and another from junior Vytas Sulskis, went on an 18-1 run and took the lead 65-61 with 3:22 to play.
The Penguins will begin the New Year on Saturday with a Horizon League contest at home against Cleveland State. Game time is 7:05 p.m. It will be the second game of a doubleheader as the YSU women will meet Milwaukee in the opener at 4:35 p.m.