YOUNGSTOWN — All game long, Youngstown State was right there, teetering on the edge of making a run, but in the end, it just couldn’t get over the hump.
Clinging to anywhere from a 1-6-point lead for the majority of the game Friday night, Purdue Fort Wayne held on and eventually pulled away late to beat the Penguins 71-61.
“(We) missed a lot of layups — missed some open shots and our screening’s been bad,” YSU head coach Jerrod Calhoun said. “We don’t wait on screens and they pressured us so much our guards couldn’t start offense. Their pressure really bothered some of our older players, which was kind of shocking. Their guys played a lot harder and certainly a lot smarter than us.”
Something had to give. YSU couldn’t get over the hill, while the Mastodons couldn’t quite pull away.
YSU took the lead 51-50 with 6:29 left on a layup by Michael Akuchie, its first lead since leading 9-7 with 13 minutes left in the first half. But, the Mastodons then responded with a three to retake the lead. Immediately after, Luke Chicone tied the game 53-53 with 5:52 left.
PFW would outscore YSU 18-8 the rest of the way.
“We finally got some stops and we got some transition,” Calhoun said. “Jarred Godfrey, their best player, he went for 18 (points) and six (rebounds). The guys that are first-team all-league guys, they deliver, and he delivered. I think he’s one of the best guards in our conference. He’s 6-foot-5, smart, knows how to play, can get mid-range, make a three, drive right-handed, drive left-handed — a complete player. I thought he was the difference.”
YSU contained Godfrey in the first half, holding him to just five points on 1-for-9 shooting. But shooters shoot and Godfrey came alive in the second half — finishing with 18 points to lead all scorers. PFW had four players score in double figures.
Turnovers continue to be an issue for YSU.
Earlier this week in a tight win against Robert Morris, the Penguins turned the ball over 26 times, their highest total of the season. Against the Mastodons, YSU turned it over 14 times, which resulted in 20 points off turnovers for PFW.
The turnovers were live-ball turnovers as well, with PFW recording 10 steals. Calhoun quoted his old boss, West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins, stating that, if the players are going to turn the ball over, they should just throw the ball into the stands instead of throwing it to the other team.
“I don’t really know what to tell them,” Calhoun said. “We can’t practice as much (because of conference games) and really hold them accountable. But (turnovers are) killing our team. It cost us the game tonight. You can’t win like that and it’s not a winning formula.”
Chicone gave YSU a scoring spark off the bench in the second half, scoring all 13 of his points after halftime to lead YSU.
“(He) played great for a freshman — really stepped it up,” Calhoun said.
Also, Akuchie had 10 points for the Penguins, which puts him just eight points away from reaching 1,000 total career points. He’ll try to reach that milestone on Sunday when YSU faces Cleveland State at 2 p.m.