YSU men can’t hold lead, fall to Canisius
By Joe Scalzo
With 2.1 seconds remaining in Youngstown State’s best season in more than a decade, junior guard Kendrick Perry caught the inbound pass, raced up the right sideline, glanced at the clock and jumped, floating an unanswered prayer toward the backboard.
It hit the left side and bounced away, as Perry sprawled to the floor, head buried in the crook of his arm.
It was an overtime loss in the second round of the CollegeInsider.com tournament.
But to the Penguins, it felt like more.
“This has been the most enjoyable year I’ve had since I’ve been in Youngstown,” head coach Jerry Slocum said after the 84-82 loss to Canisius Saturday night at Beeghly Center. “They’ve been an all-in group from Day 1, one that I’ve enjoyed coaching and being around every day.
“I’m incredibly disappointed that this group had to go out like that.”
Youngstown State actually led by 22 points (50-28) with just more than 18 minutes left in the second half but the Golden Griffins answered with a 20-0 run that kept the game close the rest of the way.
Billy Baron scored 26 points in the final 25 minutes and made the game’s biggest play in the closing seconds of overtime. After Damian Eargle was fouled after a layup with 28 seconds left — he missed the free throw, tying it at 82 — Baron let the clock wind down, then dribbled to the top of the key, where he was matched up with YSU guard D.J. Cole.
Cole stuck his arm out, protecting against the pull-up jumper, and Baron responded with a veteran move, pulling the ball up to draw the foul, then following through to get three shots, instead of two.
It was a touchy call — “It is what it is,” Slocum said afterward — and Baron hit two of three free throws to set up Perry’s half-court attempt.
“It’s a disappointing way to go out,” Slocum said. “I’m very proud of the guys and how they played all year, but I was very disappointed in our second half performance.
“I think some of it [the loss] was self-inflicted and some of it we had help with.”
Blake Allen scored 27 points with five assists for YSU (18-16), which was playing in its first postseason tournament since it was a Division II team in 1977. He hit seven 3-pointers and the Penguins finished with 15, second-best in school history to the 18 they hit in the first round CIT win over Oakland. Allen’s 94 3-pointers this season broke Craig Haese’s school record of 92, set in 2000-01.
“I just told my teammates that I love them to death,” said Allen, who is also the team’s all-time 3-point leader. “This has been an extremely fun and eventful three years and I thank the coaches for the opportunity.
“I literally signed a week before school started, I didn’t have the opportunities in the traditional recruiting process and I thank the coaches for seeing something in me and allowing me to come in here and grow.”
Baron finished with 30 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals for Canisius (20-13), which got 29 points from its bench, compared to just one for YSU. Alshwan Hymes added 19 points.
Perry scored 20 points — including seven in overtime — to go with seven rebounds and five assists. Eargle and Kamren Belin each added 14 points and 11 rebounds.
YSU finished with its most victories since winning 19 in 2000-01 — its last season before joining the Horizon League.
“It was a blast,” Allen said of this season. “I was extremely, extremely proud to be a part of this team and do something that hasn’t been done around here.”