Morse’s 3-pointer snaps Penguins’ nine-game skid


Morse’s 3-pointer snaps Penguins’ nine-game skid

By Brian Dzenis

bdzenis@vindy.com

CLEVELAND

Before anyone had time to think, Cameron Morse delivered a much-needed win for Youngstown State.

The Penguins saw an 11-point halftime lead against Cleveland State evaporate with Bobby Word’s 3-pointer to tie the game with nine seconds to play.

Without waiting for a timeout call, Naz Bohannon inbounded the ball to Morse and he took off. Devin Haygood set a screen near the right arc and Morse handled the rest.

“I was on the run and let the clock count down. I saw [CSU’s Kasheem Thomas] playing me and I looked to the ball screen. I faked a drive right and brought it back to the left and pulled up for 3,” Morse said.

“That’s a shot I’ve been hitting for years.”

The shot with 0.5 seconds left on the clock gave the Penguins (3-11, 1-0 in the Horizon League) an 80-77 victory, snapping a nine-game losing streak and delivering head coach Jerrod Calhoun his first victory against a Division I opponent. Just as that shot lifted the Penguins, it provided a much-needed boost for Morse.

While Morse is the second-leading scorer on the team, he has the least efficient. Among players who average at least 10 minutes a game for the Penguins, his field-goal percentage was the lowest at 32 percent going into Monday’s contest. His point totals in the previous three games were 1, 23 and 2. He was coming off a ghastly 1-for-14 performance in a 79-51 loss at Indiana.

“Coach has told me to stay confident. I’ve been missing shots — I was horrendous at Indiana — but I keep working on my shot,” Morse said. “Coming off this game, I feel like hitting this shot will lead to some big nights for me.”

Calhoun said was tempted to call timeout at that pivotal point.

“I almost screwed it up by calling a timeout. I saw he was on the run and he had momentum,” Calhoun said. “It was great that he had the ball. If Braun [Hartfield] had the ball, I’m not calling timeout. If it was any of the other three guys? I would have called it, but it worked out. That’s something he’s done for this university for a long time. It was a big shot.”

Morse had a double-double of 13 points and 11 assists. Hartfield, a Cleveland native, led the Penguins with 22 points. He picked up his first win in the Wolstein Center since he helped Garfield Heights defeat Warren Harding, 49-43, in the 2015-16 Division I regional semifinal.

“My whole family is here. [Garfield Heights boys basketball coach Sonny Johnson] was here. I invited everybody to the game,” Hartfield said. “It was a good game for me and I’m glad we got the win.”

While YSU’s losing streak was ugly, it isn’t the worst. The 1992-93 Penguins lost 15 in a row during a 3-23 campaign — the losingest season in YSU’s D-I era. The Penguins had a rough non-conference slate with eight of the past nine games on the road. In addition to Indiana, YSU also visited Big East sides DePaul and Butler. Seven of those nine losses have come against teams with winning records.

“We really challenged our guys with this non-conference schedule. It can’t be overlooked. It’s one of the top 100 schedules being played,” Calhoun said. “I felt like our guys were getting better, even if they were losing. It’s hard for the guys realize that, but I think today reiterated that.”

Also finishing in double figures for the Penguins were Tyree Robinson with 14 points. Jaylen Benton and Bohannon put up 11 and 10 points respectively.

Word led Cleveland State with 24 points. Calhoun’s first D-I victory came at his alma mater.

“I tried to keep my emotions intact because I played here,” Calhoun said. “A lot of former players texted me and I have so many memories of coach [Rollie Massimino], but I’m really happy for this group.”

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