Men's Basketball Uses Defense, Late Rally to Defeat USC-Upstate, 66-61

Michael Akuchie (Photo by Robert Hayes)
Michael Akuchie (Photo by Robert Hayes)

Spartanburg, S.C. -- The Youngstown State men's basketball team scored the final nine points of the game and used a solid defensive performance to defeat USC-Upstate, 66-61, at the G.B. Hodge Center on Saturday afternoon.

With the win, the Penguins improve to 3-3 while the Spartans fall to 1-6.

Sophomore Darius Quisenberry, who led the Penguins with 22 points, tied the school record with 15 made free throws and set the school record with 20 free-throw attempts. Sophomore Jelani Simmons scored a season-high 12 points, and junior Michael Akuchie posted the first double-double of his career with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Trailing 61-57 with 2:31 left, Simmons buried a clutch 3-pointer to get the Penguins within one, 61-60, with 2:16 to go. 

After the teams traded turnovers and missed field-goal attempts, Quisenberry made a pair of free throws to put the Penguins up 62-61 with 51 seconds left. Quisenberry then sealed the game by making four more free throws.

Leading by five, 31-26, at the half, Youngstown State eight points of the second half to extend its lead to a game-high 13, 39-26. Simmons made a pair a of free throws, Quisenberry hit back-to-back jumpers and Simmons hit another jumper for the 13-point edge with 16:40 to go.

The Spartans chipped Penguins lead down to three, 50-47, but Covington made two free throws and Akuchie buried a 3-pointer to push the YSU lead back to eight points, 55-47, with 6:54 remaining.

USC-Upstate then went on a 10-0 run in two-and-a-half minutes to take a 57-55 lead. After Quisenberry tied the game at 57-57 with two free throws, USC-Upstate's Brandon Martin Cartier Jernigan each made baskets to give the Spartans a four-point lead, 61-57.

The first half saw six lead changes and four ties before the Penguins were able to build their lead to as many as eight points on two different occasions.

Youngstown State returns home to host Westminster, Wednesday, Nov, 27. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Beeghly Center.