Late Surge Leads Penguins to 81-77 Win Over Northern Kentucky

Cameron Morse (Photo by John Schiraldi)
Cameron Morse (Photo by John Schiraldi)

The Youngstown State men's basketball team ended the contest on a 9-2 run in a come-from-behind 81-77 win over Northern Kentucky in the final home game of the season at the Beeghly Center on Saturday night.

The Penguins trailed 75-72 with 3:42 left in regulation before clamping down defensively and finding some offense at the right time.

Cameron Morse started the run with a basket at the 3:35 mark to make the contest 75-74. Following an offensive rebound by Devin Haygood of a Morse miss, Braun Hartfield's spin-o-rama layup gave the Guins a 76-75 lead with 2:31 left. 

After a one-and-down possession by the Norse, Morse made hanging jumper from 13 feet and was fouled with exactly two minutes remaining. He converted the free throw to extend the YSU advantage to 79-75. 

NKU pulled within 79-77 on two free throws by Mason Faulkner with a minute left. YSU milked the clock and Morse converted a short jumper with 35 seconds left in the contest. On the ensuing inbounds pass Francisco Santiago stole the NKU pass. The Norse missed four 3-pointers in the final 23 seconds as the Guins held on for the four-point win.

Morse led all scorers with 20 points, 16 of which came in the second half. Matt Donlan finished with 14 while Jordan Kaufman and Hartfield each had 12. 

YSU shot 48.5 percent (33-of-68) from the field while committing just six turnovers. NKU shot 40.6 percent (28-of-69) from the field and went 5-of-30 (16.7) from beyond the 3-point arc. 

The lead changed hands seven times in a close first half in which neither team led by more than four. YSU had a big scoring advantage in the paint, outscoring the Norse 30-10 in the opening 20 minutes.

Kaufman was 6-for-7 from the field and led all scorers with 12 points in 13 minutes in the first half.

NKU led by three on three occasions in the first five minutes, and the Norse led by four for the second time at 14-10 with 12:47 remaining. Santiago and Donlan hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Penguins their first lead of the night at 16-14, and the Penguins built a 26-22 lead on a Kaufman basket with 6:36 remaining in the half.

YSU held a four-point lead four more times before NKU went on a 5-0 run to go up 38-37 on a Dantez Walton bucket with 1:03 left. Kaufman's sixth field goal of the half put YSU back on top, and Santiago's layup in the final seconds gave the Penguins a 41-40 lead at halftime.

Donlan's 3 on YSU's first possession of the second half put the Penguins up 44-40, and YSU's lead was four again at 46-42 a minute later. Northern Kentucky scored 14 of the next 16 points to go up 56-48.

The Penguins are back in action on Tuesday night when they visit Oakland.