CLEVELAND — A final Youngstown State surge just wasn’t enough.
Trailing by as much as 11 in the second half and often having to battle back from Cleveland State runs, the Penguins made one final push — a 9-0 run — to claw to within a bucket with under 10 seconds to play.
But a charge call on Dwayne Cohill on YSU’s penultimate possession stemmed the tide, as the Penguins fell at the Wolstein Center, 64-61, in Horizon League play.
With the loss, the Penguins (10-9, 4-5) suffered a season sweep at the hands of CSU (12-4, 8-1).
Cohill initially took possession out top before driving hard into the lane. As he began his approach to the rim, though, Torrey Patton slid into position, sending both players to the floor.
“They run a 1-3-1 kind of trapping-type defense, so we wanted to get the ball in our playmakers’ hands,” YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun said. “(We wanted to) get them downhill and try to make the right read, the right play, and (Patton) slid in there at the last second and took the charge and made a good play.”
It was improbable YSU was even in that position to begin with, given how often the Vikings were able to get on scoring runs.
Cleveland State began the second half on a 7-0 spurt to take a 39-31 lead, before YSU answered with its own 11-2 run to take a 42-41 lead. That was followed by a 9-0 Cleveland State surge, before the Vikings eventually took a 62-52 lead with 3:38 to go.
As it had all evening, though, YSU rallied. Dwayne Cohill and Tevin Olison each scored four points during a 9-0 Penguin run to draw to within a point, 62-61.
Those two paced Youngstown State all evening, with Cohill leading all scorers with 20 points and Olison adding 18. Michael Akuchie tacked on 10 points, as well.
The run ended there, however. After the Penguins forced a turnover in front of CSU’s bench, Cohill was whistled for the fatal charge.
Tre Gomillion punctuated the Vikings’ win with a dunk after breaking YSU’s full-court press on CSU’s final possession, and then a full-court heave from Cohill hit off the front of the rim.
“Our guys didn’t give up; they didn’t stop playing,” Calhoun said. “We got down about eight, and I thought we just kept getting stops and plugging away.”
But, Calhoun lamented, CSU’s experience helped keep the Vikings afloat even when the Penguins would land their counterpunches, and YSU wasn’t making enough open shots when they presented themselves.
YSU shot 19-of-46 from the field, 41.3 percent, but CSU was 24-of-52 and shot 11-of-27 from 3-point range compared to YSU’s 8-of-25 mark.
That torpedoed an otherwise strong defensive night for YSU, which forced 21 Viking turnovers and coughed it up just 13 times.
In addition, CSU’s bench outscored Youngstown State’s, 32-4. Yahel Hill led Cleveland State with 15 points, while Chris Greene had 12.
“You see their composure, you see their togetherness. They’ve been in these games,” he said of Cleveland State. “This entire roster has been together now for three years, so they’re hard to beat. They’ve had five or six of these one-possession games, and they’ve won every one of them.”
Of the Penguins’ shooting, he added, “I thought the guys got wide-open shots. We missed a lot of shots. To hold a team to 64 on the road and not win, it was really our offense. Just missed a lot of open ones, I thought.”
Now losers in four of their last five contests, the Penguins have another road rematch coming up Sunday at Purdue Fort Wayne. The Mastodons topped YSU in the Beeghly Center, 71-61, back on Jan. 7, the beginning of that five-game skid. Three of those contests were decided by a total of 10 points.
YSU, now sixth in the league, sits a game back of PFW (10-8, 5-4) in the Horizon standings.
Given the circumstances, Calhoun says Sunday’s contest is of the utmost importance.
“We need to win (Sunday). It’s a big game,” he said. “You don’t want to get too far behind everybody. Really four through about eight is going to be hovering around .500, so we need to play well Saturday.”