Penguins overcome Oakland
YOUNGSTOWN — Darius Quisenberry took the inbounds pass as he’s done in so many practices, executing the same weave around the defense and drive to the hoop.
He went up and past Oakland’s Xavier Hill-Mais, who was trying to decide if Quisenberry was going to drive or kick out to Michael Akuchie for a 3-point attempt in the corner. Hill-Mais played with four fouls for the last 17 minutes, finishing with 15 points.
Quisenberry, as he’s done so many times in his career, took the ball to the basket and scored with 1.7 seconds left for a one-point lead.
“I knew they were going to double me off of it,” Quisenberry said. “I curled it so I could get the ball on the run. The big was chasing me and it was a foot race after that. I could beat him. Hill-Mais is going to help. He didn’t and I drove it all the way to the cup.”
The layup almost dripped off the rim and out.
“Sometimes you’ve got to get a little lucky,” Youngstown State University men’s coach Jerrod Calhoun said. “That ball, Darius’ shot, really was very close from coming off. He had a enough touch on it to make it in.
“I was happy for our kids.”
After Quisenberry’s go-ahead basket, Oakland took the ball quickly past half-court and Blake Lampman couldn’t get off a 3-point attempt in front of the Golden Grizzlies’ bench. Quisenberry tightly contested the Oakland guard.
The final horn sounded as YSU came away with a 61-60 win to improve to 10-6 and 3-1 in the Horizon League.
“I didn’t want to even give him a chance to get it off,” said Quisenberry, who had 15 points. “With our luck, it would go in or something like that.”
Thursday’s game at the Beeghly Center pitted two of the best defensive teams in the Horizon League. Neither team held more than a three-point lead in the final six minutes.
The Penguins were outrebounded 20-14 in the first 20 minutes, something that changed in the second half as YSU finished with a 41-31 rebounding advantage. Naz Bohannon had nine rebounds, but Akuchie led with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds.
“Everybody knows Naz is getting the rebound,” Akuchie said. “You can kind of tell Oakland was focusing on boxing him out. (Calhoun) came at everybody individually. We need to make a concerted effort to crash offensively and make sure we finish plays on defense, like box out.
“It was a toughness thing. That’s what it came down to.”
The crowd inside the Beeghly Center were up on their feet, awaiting the Penguins’ first points of the game. They waited and waited.
Oakland (6-11, 1-3) got 3-pointers from Madison Monroe, Hill-Mays and even the 6-foot-11 Brechting at the top of the arc for a 9-0 Golden Grizzlies lead. Some fans even sat down as the wait was too long.
The lead crept to 13-0 with 12:30 left in the first half.
Devin Morgan finally put the fans in their seats as he connected on a 3-pointer with 11:47 left before intermission as YSU trailed 13-3.
That started the Penguins on a 13-3 run in the next four minutes as Akuchie scored off one of the rare fast breaks in the first 20 minutes as YSU cut the Oakland lead to 17-16.
Donel Cathcart III finally got the Penguins their first lead of the game as he made a 3 with 3:30 left in the half in front of the Oakland bench for a 22-21 advantage.
Akuchie’s putback gave YSU a 24-23 lead with 1:20 left, but Oakland took a 28-24 lead into halftime.
It eventually led to the comeback, which Calhoun said wouldn’t have happened in his first two seasons at YSU.
“I give our kids a lot of credit to win this game,” Calhoun said. “We could not win this game in year one or two. When you go 8 or 9 minutes and you don’t see the ball go through the basket it can become emotionally draining.
“Our kids kept gutting it out. They’re tough kids. They’re resilient. Our fans are starting to realize our defense is pretty good. I think our players are starting to realize that.
“When you have a good defense it can keep you in games, that’s what it did.”
On Saturday, YSU hosts Detroit Mercy, starting at 2 p.m.