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Vikings play harder to beat Penguins, 82-74

YSU suffers first defeat in Horizon League

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Christian Bentley (left) puts up a shot while being fouled by Jaalam Hill (right) of CSU during the second half of Penguins’ 82-74 loss to the Vikings at the Wolstein Center.

CLEVELAND — Youngstown State had made its living off of offensive rebounding and being a nuisance defensively to other teams, holding teams to less than 68 points per game on the way to a 9-6 start, including a 2-0 mark in the Horizon League.

But on Saturday, the Cleveland State Vikings got to their spots near the basket and were dominating for a majority of the 40 minutes at the Wolstein Center in an 82-74 win over the Penguins (9-7, 2-1 Horizon).

CSU (6-10, 2-1) controlled points in the paint (46-24) and rebounding (35-28), though both teams had 13 offensive rebounds.

“They beat us up everywhere,” said YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun, whose team had its two-game win streak snapped. “They played harder. I thought they did a much better job with their game plan. We got outcoached, we got outplayed.

“These games in the Horizon League are going down to the wire. There’s not much difference between any of the teams. It’s Wright State and everybody else chasing them. The other nine teams, they’re going to have to compete at a high level every, single night.”

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Youngstown State’s Jelani Simmons shoots a 3-pointer during Saturday’s game at Cleveland State. The YSU sophomore guard came off the bench and had a career-high 19 points and had five of the team’s season-high 11 3-pointers in an 82-74 loss.

YSU had its spurts of energy, especially sophomore Jelani Simmons, who hit a 3-pointer, had a reverse lay-up off a CSU turnover and made two free throws with 14:24 left as the Vikings clung to a 49-47 lead.

Simmons, who later made a 3 with 3:05 remaining to trim the CSU lead to 69-66, had a career-high 19 points off the bench and made five of the team’s season high 11 3-pointers. YSU was 11 of 21 from beyond the arc.

But the spark wasn’t there for YSU, which had won two straight road games to begin league play. The Penguins’ spark was out like the shot clock was for most of the second half. The public address announcer had to count down on each possession when the time remaining reached 10 seconds and then he counted each second from 5.

“I just knew we needed energy when I came in,” Simmons said. “I tried as much as possible when I came in the game.”

Naz Bohannon did as much as he could also, as the 6-foot-6 Lorain native had a career-high 21 points and 13 rebounds, his fourth double-double and third straight this season.

The Vikings made it tough for the Penguins near the basket.

“We’ve got to be ready to play versus any opponent,” Bohannon said. “I don’t know if we looked down on the game, but we shouldn’t. I’m now 1-5 versus Cleveland State. We never pick it up. We can’t play a game of catch-up against a team that plays that hard.”

CSU had a handful of alley-oop dunks in the first half as Torrey Patton, who had nine points in the first 20 minutes, found teammate Deante Johnson numerous times in the first half. Patton ended with a game-high 25 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Algevon Eichelberger had 14 points, while Tre Gomillion and Johnson each had 10.

The Vikings even held a 20-19 rebounding edge in the first half, something YSU hasn’t seen in previous games.

The Penguins didn’t take their first lead until Darius Quisenberry connected on a 3-pointer with 4:10 left before intermission as YSU had a short-lived 24-23 lead. Simmons’ 3 with 2:45 left in the half gave the Penguins a 30-27 lead.

CSU rolled the rest of the half as the Vikings got the rebound with seconds left before intermission, pushed the ball to Jaalam Hill and he finished things with a one-handed slam right before the end of the half for a 35-32 lead.

Quisenberry, who averaged more than 20 points in the first two Horizon League games, was held to five.

CSU held a 75-69 lead with a minute-and-a-half left as Quisenberry drove on the following possession. An official near the YSU bench called goaltending, which cut the CSU lead to 75-71. But that call was waved off after video review with 1:29 remaining.

The Vikings were 6-of-6 from the foul line from that point forward.

“They just denied him everywhere,” Calhoun said of Quisenberry. “He’s got to get used to that. That’s going to happen.

“They denied him, made his life miserable. We’ve got to design some things to help get him open. They did a nice job with their defense.”

It was CSU’s tenacious play which held a defensive-minded YSU team in check Saturday afternoon. The Penguins have not given up 80 or more points since losing at Central Michigan on Nov. 30, 88-72.

“The tougher team, today, won the game,” Calhoun said. “That’s how it should be. When you play harder, you should win the game. I tip my hat to them. We’ve got to learn, and we’ve got to coach them better.”

On Thursday, YSU hosts Oakland starting at 7 p.m. to begin a two-game homestand.

“We can’t give up 82 points,” Bohannon said. “(We have to get) our edge back. We can’t get complacent after winning two games in the league. The league is up for grabs. Be ready to play. Be ready to play hard and get back to our identity.”