With my sister recently moving outside of metro Detroit to Lambertville, Michigan near the Ohio border I knew this would be a good opportunity to make the 8 mile trip down to Toledo when I went up there to visit. When I checked out the schedule I was not too excited when I saw the only game I could get to was when Youngstown State was making the in-state trip.
I don't have anything against the Penguins, but YSU is primarily known as a football school. There is actually a large amount of people from Youngstown and the surrounding area that live in Myrtle Beach. I'm friends with several of them and have heard all about the Youngstown football program with Jim Tressel and the entire Stoops family and many other high profile coaches that have come from there. Not once have they ever mentioned anything about the YSU basketball team other than "yeah... they're pretty bad."
After researching the Penguins I can see why the basketball team hadn't invoked much enthusiasm from the Youngstown faithful. They have never made an NCAA Tournament, hopped between 3 different conferences and being independent in the past 25 years. Only having 2 winning seasons in the past 15 years hasn't helped matters either.
Toledo hasn't been a basketball powerhouse as of late either. Many have regarded them as one of the worst teams in Division I the past few years with a combined record of 15-81 the past 3 years. Meanwhile, the Rockets are almost in the same boat as Youngstown as the Toledo football team is usually one of the stronger teams in the MAC on a yearly basis.
With all of this I didn't expect much from this game going into the season, but both teams have shown signs of improvement at the start of this year. Toledo already surpassed last years win total with 6 straight victories while the Penguins came in at 6-3 and seem to be playing at the level of their competition in each game.
When I arrived at Savage Arena there were a lot more fans there than I had expected. The arena was by no means full, and most of the students were gone along with the band, but the Rockets seem to be getting a decent amount of support. Unlike Craig Caswell, I wasn't able to get a free ticket to the game, but my $10 purchase put me at center court, so I didn't have much to complain about.
The first 10 minutes of the game were a bit hard to watch. Both teams reverted back to their bad basketball of years past with plenty of turnovers and bad shots. The 13-10 Toledo lead had the crowd quiet as they were waiting for any sort of excitement. The Rockets would kick things up a notch as they started burying some 3's and also added in a 5 point possession. Youngstown wasn't getting much of anything except from Blake Allen who scored 16 of the team's first 23 points. He couldn't do it all alone as the Penguins went into half with an 11 point deficit.
Coming out of the half, the Penguins crept back into the game. They were getting production from everyone as Allen was finally getting help from his teammates. The crowd antsy during this stretch as I could tell they've probably had to sit through the Rockets giving up a lead before in years past. It looked like that was going to happen again as YSU got within 1 with about 10 minutes to go.
The momentum was all on the side of the Penguins until Rocket guard Reese Holiday was fouled by DuShawn Brooks after an offensive rebound. Brooks went on to get a tech and fouled himself out. Toledo made 4 free throws to extend the lead to 5. YSU didn't respond well, with some bad shots, while the Rockets went on a 12-0 capped off by a Ryan Majerle 3 (nephew of Thunder Dan). The Penguins never recovered from that spurt and couldn't get the game closer than 8 as Toledo sent the crowd home happy.
While football may be the main priority at both of these schools, they provided a good matchup on a snowy Saturday night. While they may not yet be ready to contend in their respective conferences they will be more than just bottom dwellers and be able to be spoilers throughout the year.
at TOLEDO 86, YOUNGSTOWN STATE 77 12/17/2011
YOUNGSTOWN STATE 6-4 (1-1) -- J. Naburgs 2-7 4-7 10; B. Allen 8-13 2-2 22; K. Perry 7-17 3-3 19; A. Ward 0-8 1-2 1; D. Eargle 4-9 5-8 13; D. Brooks 1-6 0-0 2; N. Perry 3-4 2-3 10; F. Larson 2-3 0-0 4; J. Amiker 2-3 0-0 4; J. Chojnacki 0-1 2-2 2; C. Zuiker 0-1 0-0 0; D. Cole 0-1 0-0 0; M. Podolsky 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-66 15-20 77. TOLEDO 7-3 (0-0) -- R. Pearson 6-12 0-0 12; J. Brown 4-10 7-8 15; D. Buckley 5-9 8-9 21; C. Dennis 3-9 2-2 9; R. Holliday 2-6 3-4 8; D. Dear 6-7 1-2 13; R. Majerle 1-3 0-0 3; M. Smith 1-7 2-2 5. Totals 28-63 23-27 86.
Three-point goals: YSU 8-25 (A. Ward 0-3; B. Allen 4-9; D. Brooks 0-2; K. Perry 2-7; N. Perry 2-3; C. Zuiker 0-1), TOL 7-15 (D. Buckley 3-4; C. Dennis 1-5; R. Pearson 0-1; M. Smith 1-1; R. Holliday 1-2; R. Majerle 1-2); Rebounds: YSU 30 (D. Eargle 9), TOL 43 (R. Holliday 14); Assists: YSU 14 (K. Perry 5), TOL 17 (J. Brown 7); Total Fouls -- YSU 23, TOL 19; Fouled Out: YSU-D. Brooks; TOL-M. Smith.