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Penguins pass 1st quiz

YSU guard lights up No. 1 WSU

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Darius Quisenberry celebrates after hitting one of his seven 3-pointers Thursday night against Wright State at the Beeghly Center.

YOUNGSTOWN — Jerrod Calhoun explained himself in the post-game news conference.

The third-year Youngstown State University men’s basketball coach started pumping his fist on the embossed Y on the Beeghly Center floor at center court.

Youngstown State 88, Wright State 70. That was first-place Wright State, leader of the Horizon League.

“I usually don’t fist pump and act like a teenager again,” Calhoun said. “Those are the fun moments in coaching. This has been three years in the making. This is special, playing in a postseason tournament. This has only been done once before.”

YSU played in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament in the 2012-13 season when the team coached by Jerry Slocum went 18-16. The Penguins made the second round of that tournament.

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun pumps up the crowd as he walk off the court following YSU’s 88-70 victory against the Raiders.

These Penguins are 16-12 and 9-6 in the Horizon League, still staying in third place after Thursday’s win.

Darius Quisenberry, the 6-foot-1 sophomore guard from Springfield, grew up about a half-hour away from the Wright State campus. He was recruited by both the Raiders (23-6, 13-3) and Penguins.

He had one of the best halves of his career with 25 points in the first 20 minutes, shooting 10-of-16 from the floor and 5-of-6 from 3-point range.

Quisenberry finished with a career-high 41 points on 14-of-26 from the floor, 7-of-11 from 3 and 6-of-6 from the foul line. He is the first Horizon League player this year to score more than 40 points. Only four YSU players have reached 40 points when the Penguins were a Division I team, the last being Cameron Morse who scored 44 point against UIC in 2017.

Naz Bohannon, who had 16 points and 14 rebounds, said he saw something about his teammate prior to the game. The look in Quisenberry’s eyes took the YSU junior aback.

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes The Penguins celebrate with Associated Head Coach Jason Slay, left, after their 88-70 rout of first-place Wright State.

“I was like, ‘Whatever on you, stay there,'” Bohannon said. “I’ve only seen a couple of guys do that in person. It was ridiculous.”

Quisenberry came back from the recent Detroit Mercy-Oakland road trip depressed.

He got up early in the mornings, lifted, put up shots in the gym. Quisenberry would not be denied.

“I got in that mindset,” he said. “We’re not going to do this anymore where I go into halftime with zero points, just me affecting the game.”

It was a different mindset for the sophomore guard.

“Just have that killer mentality,” Quisenberry said. “Whoever steps in front of me, I’m going to kill them. I got to have that mentality every time I step on the floor. Preparation helps that.”

YSU outrebounded Wright State 43-24, had 14 assists to eight turnovers and held a 32-30 advantage in points in the paint.

No letdowns. It was the closest thing to 40 minutes of solid basketball YSU has seen this season.

Calhoun said Thursday’s performance reminded him of the West Virginia game in which YSU led by three at halftime before the Mountaineers pulled away late in the Dec. 21 contest against an Associated Press Top 25 opponent.

YSU wanted Thurdsay’s game after Saturday’s loss at Oakland. Tempers flared during Tuesday’s practice as people started to get in other’s faces.

“Probably a little too chippy,” Calhoun said, “Sometimes that happens when you really want something to happen. Tempers were flaring a little bit this week. I knew our guys would be ready. I was shocked by the rebounding margin.”

Thursday was a culmination of so much since Calhoun, his staff and players took a foothold on YSU’s campus in late March of 2017.

“To see your kids buy into something you’ve been talking about for three years, to play that relentless with that much passion,” Calhoun said. “Then, you look in the stands and see the smile on people’s faces. You see the excitement, the energy in the building of this city. I’ll always remember it.

“I told the guys before the game, we’re going to remember this night. We’re going to win this game. We’re going to play for 40 minutes.”

They did.

Saturday, it’s another monumental challenge in NKU, the second-place team in the Horizon League. The Norse ravaged the Penguins on Jan. 16 at the BB&T Arena, 88-63.

“We need to take care of some business on Saturday,” Calhoun said. “NKU is a tall task. We’re got to really bring it.”

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