By joe catullo
After trailing by as many as 18 points in the second half, Youngstown State began closing in on Wright State on Friday night.
Dribbling with urgency and down by five points, Kendrick Perry lost control near the foul line. Kamren Belin picked up the ball and tossed it to Blake Allen, who glided to his right and created an open 3-point attempt.
“That was his cleanest look,” WSU coach Billy Donlon said. “He didn’t get a clean look all game. I think that’s why he missed it, so credit our kids for that.”
The ball hit the side of the rim, Kendall Griffin collected the rebound and two Joe Bramanti free throws sealed a 66-59 victory, eliminating the Penguins (17-15) from the Horizon League tournament. Allen missed all eight of his 3-point attempts.
“I thought we had enough stops and open shots in the second half to win the basketball game,” YSU coach Jerry Slocum said. “We had two wide-open 3s and a wide-open, back-cut layup, and we came out of those three possessions with nothing. I thought offensively that was the difference in the game.”
Beginning with 6:07 remaining in the game, YSU used a 13-5 scoring run that cut the deficit to three. Then, with 3:15 remaining, Reggie Arceneaux hit a 3-pointer over D.J. Cole that drained the Penguins.
“I think from then on it was kind of tough for us down the stretch,” Perry said.
The Penguins struggled shooting in the first half, making just 29.6 percent of their shots and missing all seven 3-pointers they attempted. The Raiders (20-11) took a 33-19 advantage.
Perry also struggled in the half, scoring no points and collecting two fouls in five minutes. He missed the previous four games with a dislocated knee.
Slocum said he knew after Thursday’s practice that Perry was ready to go.
“We talked long about it, gave it some thought,” Perry said. “Whether it was 10 minutes, 40 minutes or three minutes, I just wanted to go out there and try to contribute to the best of my ability.”
Perry found his groove with an 11-point second half, but it wasn’t enough. He did not play the last time YSU faced the Raiders, which was in a 72-45 defeat on March 2 in Dayton.
“I felt like he was the same player,” WSU guard Miles Dixon said. “He plays very aggressive. We played him like we played him last time when he was in the game.”
Belin finished with a game-high 20 points and Damian Eargle scored 13. Eargle and Perry played together for the first time since a triple-overtime loss to UIC on Feb. 10. Eargle said he didn’t have to adjust to that.
“With a player like KP, you don’t have to get used to playing with him,” he said. “We’ve been playing together for three years now. When he’s back, I already know what to do.”
The Raiders advance to today’s third-round matchup with Detroit.
“There’s no dull moment in Horizon League basketball,” Donlon said.