Penguin starters flat in fourth straight loss
By Brian Dzenis
Robert Morris got the better of the matchup of gutted rosters.
RMU carries 11 new players to Youngstown States’s 14 and started three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior against the Penguins Tuesday night while having no seniors on its roster. The Colonials still had enough to beat the Penguins, 81-74, in their final home game at Beeghley Center in 2017.
YSU has lost four straight while falling to 2-6 — with no wins against Division I teams.
“Going forward, we need to have the will to stay engaged and have the will to work hard right now,” forward Garrett Covington said. “I don’t think we have that right now.”
The Penguins forced the Colonials into committing 19 turnovers, shot the ball 17 more times and saw great play off the bench from Devin Haygood and Covington. The Penguins also were 3 for 16 from 3-point range and saw their starting five put in a dreadful performance.
Braun Hartfield was the only starter to reach double figures with 12 points, but shot 5 for 15 from the floor and had five turnovers. Leading scorer Cameron Morse finished with five points while shooting 1 for 9, including fives misses from beyond the arc. Colonials junior guard Matty McConnell —the most experienced player in RMU’s starting five — worked over the senior guard.
“I didn’t like [McConnell]. He was talking a little trash the last three minutes of the game, but that’s who he is,” YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun said. “That’s who the McConnell family is. They’re tough. They’re gritty and he did a great job on Cam.”
Those familiar with Pittsburgh-area basketball know about the McConnells. Matty is the younger brother of Philadelphia 76ers guard T.J. McConnell. His father Tim, has won more than 500 games with Chartiers Valley (Pa.). His mother, Maureen, is a former Pitt basketball player. His aunt Suzie is currently the women’s basketball coach for the Panthers.
But Calhoun isn’t exactly giving Morse — who’s approaching 2,000 points for his career — a pass.
“Cam has to improve his percentages. You look at his numbers this year — really over the last two years — they haven’t been very good, just to be honest with you,” Calhoun said. “He’s a volume shooter with low percentages.”
Another tough blow for the Penguins was losing guard Francisco Santiago. The left knee injury that has been bothering him since the offseason flared up again and the senior exited the game in the second half.
“It’s not good. It’s not good at all. The knee shifted ... it’s sad,” Calhoun said. “That’s one kid that’s everything right with college athletics.”
Haygood led the Penguins with 15 points and Covington added 12. The Penguins play their next six games on the road, a slate that will net the athletic department about $370,000, Calhoun said.
Dachon Burke led RMU with 21 points. McConnell put up 18 and Koby Thomas and Jon Williams each had 11.
YSU’s best stretch came was rallying from an eight-point deficit in the second half to tie the game in under a minute, offering a glimpse of what Calhoun basketball is supposed to look like.
“We just have to get past that threshold and keep excelling and not become complacent,” Covington said.