Penguins offer little resistance in loss to Northern Kentucky

By Brian Dzenis

bdzenis@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Youngstown State offered no answers or defense against Northern Kentucky. In a high-scoring shootout with the Norse, the more experienced side proved to be better and the Penguins lost, 95-85.

Northern Kentucky (16-7, 8-2) was the Horizon League’s representative in the NCAA tournament last year and is the kind of side YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun wishes his team could be.

“They’ve been to the highest level of basketball, so they understand what it takes to win and we’re not at that rate yet. We’re not at that pace,” Calhoun said. “We were just always a second late. At times we were great and at times we didn’t look like we knew how to play any sort of defense.

“I told the young guys that this is a good look at the best team in the League that’s done it the right way.”

Norse junior forward Drew McDonald, the preseason pick for Horizon League Player of the Year, lived up to such billing. He needed just a little over a half of play to reach a double-double and finished with 26 points and 16 rebounds. He put up those numbers without a single foul to his name.

“He’s got my vote,” Calhoun said of McDonald’s Player of the Year campaign.

Carson Williams added 19 points and Tyler Sharpe made four 3-pointers while scoring 15 points. Mason Faulkner scored 12 points and Lavone Holland II was the fifth Norse player in double figures with 11.

The Penguins led the Norse 43-40 at the half, but shaky defense was a factor. NKU shot 55 percent in the first half and got even better in the second. NKU shot 64 percent in the second half and went six of eight from 3-point range. Players charged with defending Beeghly Center got lost in screens and the Norse responded by hitting wide-open 3-pointers.

“We have to be better at rotating, contesting shots and giving tough looks,” Penguins sophomore Braun Hartfield said. “We gave up a lot of open shots.”

Hartfield led the Penguins with 23 points and Tyree Robinson came off the bench for 19 points. Cam Morse added 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting and Devin Haygood had 11 points. Naz Bohannon was a bucket short of a double-double with eight points and 11 rebounds.

YSU (6-18, 4-6 Horizon League) has lost three in a row after coming home from a fruitless swing through Wisconsin against Milwaukee and Green Bay — two teams the Penguins beat earlier in the conference season.

“I think it’s all youth, guys. I could scream and yell all night long, but I’m not going to do that anymore. It doesn’t work with a bunch of freshmen,” Calhoun said. “Hopefully our guys will be hungry and tired of losing and hopefully we’ll build the right way.”

Saturday’s home contest against Wright State offers little respite. The Raiders (17-7, 9-2) are the League’s top team. Ursuline grad Mark Hughes is averaging 9.2 points for Wright State.

The Raiders coming off a loss to the second-worst team in the League, Cleveland State.

“They’re going to come here really happy after a loss. I’m sure of it,” Calhoun said.

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