By Joe Scalzo
Youngstown State and Cleveland State both pressed on Saturday night.
Problem was, the Vikings did it on defense.
Playing in front of their biggest crowd in 28 years, the Penguins kept things close for about 10 minutes before CSU imposed its will, dominating YSU en route to a 67-47 victory in a Horizon League men’s basketball game at Beeghly Center.
“I don’t think we handled the moment well,” said Slocum, whose team drew a crowd of 6,313 — the fourth-biggest in the facility’s history. “I don’t think we handled the excitement of the crowd, I thought we played outside our basketball IQ and I thought we played outside our basketball patience.
“We didn’t play well in any aspect or any facet of the game. And give them credit — they had something to do with it.”
With size and strength advantages at almost every position — the Vikings almost look more like a college football team than a basketball team — Cleveland State contested nearly every shot and made it a challenge just to get the ball past halfcourt.
“They’re a good basketball team but they didn’t get any bigger since the first time we played them,” said Slocum. “I thought the first we played them we were a lot more disciplined.
“The first time we passed through their pressure and tonight we tried to dribble too much.”
Junior guard Blake Allen had 11 points, junior forward Damian Eargle had 10 points, six rebounds and five blocks and Kendrick Perry had 10 points and three steals for the Penguins, who fell behind 41-19 at halftime. Over they first 20 minutes, they had 12 turnovers and shot just 28 percent from the field.
It was clear from the opening tip that the Vikings were still smarting from their 73-67 home loss to the Penguins on New Year’s Eve.
“You’re always mad when someone comes into your home court and gets a win,” said CSU senior guard D’Aundray Brown, who had nine points and four assists for the Vikings (18-4, 8-2). “You’re thinking about that last game and the mistakes you made, so you try to push the effort.
“In our last game at home, we came out slow [against YSU] and we made it an emphasis to start fast.”
It was the final game at Beeghly for Brown, an Ursuline High graduate whose parents, Aundra Brown and Sharella Thomas, both played at Youngstown State. And while he — and Cleveland State — had a sizable cheering section, the bulk of the fans were there to see Youngstown State.
The Vikings made sure they stayed quiet.
“We have a bunch of seniors on our team that are used to hostile environments, and we kind of feed off it when they’re cheering against you,” Brown said. “You want to go out there and prove them wrong.”
The Vikings took a half-game lead over Milwaukee in the league standings, while YSU is fourth, two games behind. The Penguins don’t have much time to regroup; starting Tuesday, they’ll play three road games (against Milwaukee, UIC and Loyola) in less than a week.
“After we beat Milwaukee [on Jan. 20], I told you then that that didn’t make our year,” said Slocum. “This isn’t breaking our year.
“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us in terms of this league and this is one basketball game we’ll put in our rearview mirror real quick.”