YOUNGSTOWN — Down but never out, Youngstown State finally managed to find a way to come out on top.
Tied at 86 with Wright State, Dwayne Cohill allowed the clock to tick to about 10 seconds before driving the lane and kicking to Shemar Rathan-Mayes. He followed by kicking it to the corner to Daniel Ogoro, who fired off an open 3-pointer.
And with those three points, YSU ended a three-game losing streak with a 90-87 win over the visiting Raiders in front of 2,032 fans at the Beeghly Center. That capped off a frustrating homestand with a critical Horizon League victory.
“It’s definitely a weight off our shoulders,” said Cohill, who scored a career-high 25 points. “We had three straight losses … those last two were one-possession games, and then this one came down to one possession. It just shows we have resiliency; we know we’re tough.”
Wright State (9-8, 6-2) led 73-64 with 7:37 to go, before YSU (10-8, 4-4) responded with what coach Jerrod Calhoun affirmed was the best seven minutes of basketball the team has played this season.
The Penguins jumped into a zone to slow the Raiders’ torrid offense down, and Cohill became more active off the dribble, frequently driving the lane to either kick to open teammates or earn a layup. He scored nine of his points after that 7:37 mark to help spur the Penguins back.
That was coupled with critical buckets from Chris Shelton, who hit a jumper with three minutes to play to draw the Penguins to within two, and then followed it with a 3-pointer on YSU’s next possession to give the Penguins the lead. Shelton finished with eight points.
“The turning point was when Shelton made that three. We’ve run that play a couple times now, and it helped us win the Milwaukee game [on Dec. 2],” Calhoun said. “Tonight, between that and Ogoro’s threes, those were big shots. Those are opportune shots.”
The teams battled back and forth before a C.J. Wilbourn layup tied the game at 86 and set up YSU’s final full possession that culminated in Ogoro’s game-winner.
Rathan-Mayes, who scored 15 points, fouled Keaton Norris on the Raiders’ subsequent possession to prevent a 3-point try, and he split those to bring WSU to within two. A final inbound to and foul shot from Ogoro brought the score to its final tally.
Of his game-winner, Ogoro, who scored six points, said, “I work on my jumpshot every day, so I’m glad (Cohill) made the extra pass and (Rathan-Mayes) made the extra pass and were unselfish. It was a wide-open shot and the best shot we could get, so I was happy with it.”
Michael Akuchie also played a significant role for YSU, scoring 19 points and snagging six rebounds after having some recent struggles. In addition, YSU’s bench outscored the short-handed Raiders’ bench 19-0. WSU played just seven men in the loss.
Calhoun noted that he and Akuchie had a lengthy conversation Friday, and Calhoun also met with several others in addition to a team meeting.
“I met individually with a lot of guys. We talked some things out, and I told them it’s going to come down to this again. It’ll probably come down to the final three minutes of the game, and we just got to get it done,” Calhoun said.
The game featured plenty of offense, as Wright State sank 42.6 percent of its shots and Youngstown State connected on 47.8 percent of its own. The 177 combined points were the most in any YSU game this season.
Tanner Holden led WSU with 27 points, while Grant Basile added 26 and Tim Finke scored 18.
“We definitely didn’t play our best game on defense. I think we’re a top four team (in the Horizon League) in defense, and for us to give them 87 points, that’s a lot,” Cohill said. “Especially with two of their players out. I think we have to be better on the defensive end, but we did enough to win the game, and I’m proud of my team.”
With the win, YSU managed to stabilize its season and keep pace with Purdue Fort Wayne for fifth in the league standings. Those teams will meet for a second time a week from today, as the Penguins travel to Indiana for the rematch. PFW won the initial encounter 71-61. First, though, YSU visits Cleveland State on Friday.
With an eye to the future, Calhoun said, “This win could really help us moving forward.”