Penguins fall short in second overtime
By Greg Gulas
The Youngstown State men’s basketball team is going to look back on the regular-season finale with Cleveland State and wonder how so many missed opportunities were squandered.
The Vikings outscored the Penguins 12-7 in the second overtime, overcoming two three-point deficits in the initial extra session and a five-point deficit with 24 seconds remaining in regulation to defeat YSU, 99-94, Saturday at Beeghly Center.
Cleveland State earned the No. 8 seed in the upcoming Horizon League tournament. YSU i the No. 9 seed with the two teams set to meet in the tourney’s opening round on Friday at 8 p.m. at Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit.
“Give Cleveland State credit because they came in here and played really, really hard,” YSU head coach Jerrod Calhoun said. “I thought it was an entertaining game, an emotional roller-coaster-type game.”
YSU is 33-67 all-time in overtime contests.
Bobby Word led five Vikings players in double figures with 25 points, offsetting a career high 21 points by YSU’s Jaylen Benton and 20 more from Cameron Morse.
“We need to finish our plays and make our free throws,” Benton said. “We cannot afford empty possessions. We’ll play them again in the first-round of the tournament, but must step up and make our shots.”
On Senior Night, it was senior Ryan Strollo that kick-started the Penguins’ offense.
His two triples keyed a 13-9 start as YSU opened a four-point advantage about five minutes into the contest.
A bucket from beyond the arc by the Vikings’ Tyree Appleby gave Cleveland State their first lead of the game, 22-21 at the 8:18 mark.
Benton was on fire in the opening frame, scoring 11 points and connecting on three of four buckets from beyond the arc.
His bucket and follow-up triple at the 7:26 mark helped YSU regain the lead at 26-22, opening a 30-26 margin on Garrett Covington’s bucket with 5:18 remaining.
Cleveland State then went on a 7-1 run to open a 33-31 lead, only to have YSU close the half on a 6-0 run on back-to-back triples from Benton and Braun Hartfield for a 37-31 lead at the intermission.
Morse did not score his initial point until the 15:22 mark of the second half and with his 20-point effort, now has 1,900 for his career.
YSU finished just 12 of 27 from the charity stripe.
“We had our opportunities. Most of our missed free throws came at crunch time,” Morse said. “We just need to stay the course and with the series tied 1-1 this year, I feel confident coming back to play them again on Friday night.”
The game was tied 20 times and there were 25 lead changes with all but four ties and six of those lead changes coming after intermission.