Quick starts to each half helped lead the Youngstown State men's basketball team to a solid 71-50 victory over UIC on Saturday night at the Beeghly Center. The victory gives the Penguins their best start to league play since joining the Horizon League in 2001-02.
In the second half, YSU scored 14 of the first 16 points. To start the game, YSU scored 15 of the first 18 points.
With the victory the Penguins improve to 9-6 overall and 4-1 in the Horizon League. The nine wins equal the total for last season while the 4-1 conference mark is the best since the Penguins joined the league more than 10 years ago. UIC is now 5-11 and 1-5.
Ashen Ward led the way scoring a season-high 22 points. He scored 21 in the overtime win over Loyola on Thursday night. Also scoring in double figures for the Guins was Kendrick Perry who had 14, Damian Eargle had 11 and Blake Allen added 10. For the Flames, Hayden Humes had a team-high 11 points.
The Penguins shot 49.1 percent making 26-of-53 from the field, including connecting on nine 3-pointers. UIC finished at 31.6 percent, connecting on 18-of-57 attempts.
In the second half, Ward scored the Guins' first 15 points. Ward made two free throws, drained back-to-back threes, drove to the basket for a layup, drilled a fast-break 3-pointer and added a free throw for good measure.
Ward left the game with the Penguins leading 50-24. YSU went on to double-up the Flames 60-30 with 11:45 left on a 3-pointer by Allen for their largest lead of the contest.
From that point, UIC scored nine straight points before Eagle ended the run with a layup at the 6:22 mark. The Flames went on 17-4 to get within 64-47 with 3:33 left.
YSU opened the game on a roll by scoring 15 of the first 18 points. UIC had a quick 3-2 lead following a 3-pointer by Gary Talton before YSU answered by scoring the next 15 points. During the run, Ward, Brooks and Perry drained consecutive 3-pointers at one stretch.
The Flames kept chipping away and cut the deficit to five three times, the last of which came on a tip-in by Darrin Williams with 5:27 left in the opening half. That was the final basket of the first half for UIC.
Youngstown State scored the final nine points to grab a 36-22 lead at halftime. Of the four made field goals during that stretch, the final three were inside the paint. Eargle's 12-footer put at the 2:13 mark was the final basket of the half for either team.
YSU shot an impressive 55.2 percent (16-of-29) in the opening half. The Guins made 13 of those 16 shots from inside the 3-point line. UIC was held to just 29.6 percent (8-of-27) .
The Penguins return to action on Friday when they visit Valparaiso. Tipoff at the Athletics Recreation Center is set for 8 p.m. Eastern time and will be carried live on 570 WKBN and the Horizon League Network.