Donlan, Hartfield help Penguins take down Vikings
By Paul Oren
Special to The Vindicator
Youngstown State delivered one of its highest offensive outputs of the year on Friday night, but moments after the Penguins knocked off Cleveland State in the first round of the Horizon League tournament, Jerry Slocum wanted to talk defense.
“This was one of our best defensive efforts of the year,” Slocum said of YSU’s 84-69 win over the Vikings. “We just played them a week ago, so we knew what was coming.”
Matt Donlan had a game-high 24 points to lead five YSU players in double figures while freshman Braun Hartfield delivered a career-high 22 points, including five straight points that helped jumpstart a 17-4 run which turned a one-possession game into a blowout.
The Penguins, who lost by 14 points at CSU last week, looked nothing like the team that finished with regular season with seven losses in their last eight games. Donlan pointed to the disappointing loss against the Vikings in the regular-season finale as motivation.
“That’s one of those things where it can hurt them, help us,” Donlan said. “It gave us a bit of a chip on our shoulder and maybe they were relaxed. We wanted to try to send them back to Cleveland.”
The game was hard-fought throughout the night as neither team led by more than two possessions for the first 31 minutes. In a show of its offensive balance that became one of the storylines of the evening, four different YSU players scored during an 8-0 run that gave the Penguins a 60-53 lead with nine minutes remaining.
CSU star Rob Edwards put a stop to the run with a layup then scored seven straight points following jumpers by Francisco Santiago and Jorden Kaufman. Donlan and Edwards trade 3-pointers and the Penguins led 67-65 with just under four minutes remaining when Hartfield hit two jumpers and a free throw to start Youngstown State’s game-closing scoring run.
“It feels great,” Hartfield said of his career performance. “I just came out and played my game. I stayed in front of the best player and I hit wide open shots.”
As good as the Penguins (12-20) were defensively throughout the night, they struggled to contain Edwards down the stretch. The All-Horizon League second-teamer scored CSU’s last 16 points of the game and finished with a game-high 27 points.
Instead of matching Edwards shot for shot, Morse, YSU’s All-Horizon selection, took just nine shot attempts and finished with 12 points. Not that Slocum was complaining.
“I thought Cam played a really complete game,” Slocum said. “The other stat line is we had five guys in double figures. Cam had 12 points, but he had six assists. That’s another 12 [points]. I give him 24 if you think about it that way.”
Kaufman had 15 points and 11 rebounds while Santiago added 10 points and six assists.
The Penguins return to the court on today against top-seeded Oakland. The Golden Grizzlies beat YSU both times in the regular-season, including on Feb. 21 when Oakland scored 101 points in a 29-point victory.
“We enjoyed [this win] in the locker room and now it’s time to turn the page,” Donlan said. “We’ve got our sights set on Oakland tomorrow.”