Penguins win to remain on top of Horizon
By Brian Dzenis
College basketball involves human beings doing things that average humans can’t do.
Take Youngstown State junior forward Tyree Robinson, who can run from one end of the floor to the other and prevent a player as tall as 6-feet-8 from putting a basketball in a hoop by leaping up and swatting the ball out of play.
“It’s the same thing as dunk, but you’re rejecting it,” Robinson said. “I take pride in blocking shots and when I get a chasedown, it’s like I’m LeBron.”
Robinson did that four times as the Penguins did something normal YSU teams couldn’t do, start Horizon League play with three straight victories. They clinched the feat with Saturday’s 85-74 victory against Green Bay at Beeghly Center.
The Penguins (5-11, 3-0 Horizon League) are tied with 2017 NCAA tournament participant Northern Kentucky and Wright State for first place.
YSU has never had such a start to current conference play. The start ties the 1997-98 Penguins for the best league start as a Division I team. Back then, most of the current players weren’t born and coach Jerrod Calhoun was a freshman at Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph.
“I told those guys in there that they’re 3-0 because they earned it,” Calhoun said. “We’ve seen all the mockeries on Youngstown State, the guys crushing us on Twitter and how we’re not good for this league and all this stuff.
“Our guys want to play for the city of Youngstown and they’re going to play with a chip on their shoulder.”
The Penguins were neck-and-neck with the Phoenix through the opening 10 minutes before the Phoenix mounted a 10-0 run that had the Penguins down 27-20 and chasing for the rest of the half.
The Penguins received a second-half spark from Cameron Morse, who gave the Penguins their first points of the half with two threes sandwiching a Morse steal.
With roughly 15 minutes remaining, Robinson hit a layup then stole the inbound pass to give the Penguins their first lead of the half at 56-54.
Across the final 12 minutes, the Penguins outscored the Phoenix 21-11. Braun Hartfield scored eight of his team-high 21 points in that stretch.
Morse had just five points in the first half, but finished the contest with 19. Robinson was a rebound shy of a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds. Freshman Garrett Covington scored 17 points and had four steals.
“Coach really emphasizes our defense and how gritty we have to be. With me in my role, I just come in and it’s defense first,” Covington said. “If I can stop on the other side of the floor, than I’m going to be ok.”
Green Bay’s Sandy Cohen III carried the Phoenix (7-11, 2-3) with a game-high 27 points. Khalil Small added 21 points for the visitors.
The Penguins will play their next three contests on the road before coming home to face UIC on Jan. 18.