Lacking a Horizon League victory in its first three attempts, Robert Morris men’s basketball rang in the new year against Youngstown State in the program’s first game of the 2022 calendar year.
The Penguins did not hit any icebergs in the end.
It was a tale of two halves as the offense picked up in the second, but RMU (2-11, 0-4) could not find the final gear needed to earn the victory as YSU (9-5, 3-1) sank critical free throws.
The action slowed the first two minutes and change with three early fouls in the game, but picked up quickly as Chris Shelton hit back-to-back threes and YSU worked into their offense.
The Penguins led 9-6 at the under-16 timeout and looked poised to gain control of the pace.
A lack of ball movement and sloppy play cursed RMU the next two minutes, but a steal from Brandon Stone and a Rasheem Dunn layup on the other end ended in a three-point play.
The bucket resulted in a 15-10 YSU advantage before the free throw and under-12 minutes in the first half.
Andy Toole’s team gain newfound energy on the defensive end to make up for a lackluster offensive output.
Both teams struggled to sink shots as RMU relied on another and-one for Enoch Cheeks to cut the deficit to three at 17-12. YSU became the more turnover-prone team in a game lacking explosive and entertaining offense.
Neither team moved the needle before the under-eight timeout with exactly eight minutes remaining and YSU up 20-16. Not simply a defensive clinic but a collective offensive drought was the identity at the UPMC Events Center.
Dwayne Cohill silenced the building out of the break with a three but the tide started to shift the Colonials way.
A Kam Farris three-pointer tied it at 25, RMU’s first three of the game nearing three minutes left, and was a pleasant sight to see for the Colonial faithful.
Cohill picked up his second foul leading into a timeout with 2:08 left in the first half.
The final two minutes were categorized by missed opportunities on both ends and Youngstown State carried a 27-25 score into the break after 20 minutes.
The Colonials’ inability to knock down three-pointers was a major detriment against a struggling Penguins team, recording a 1-12 mark registering at just over 8%.
Shelton led all scorers with nine points and Cohill (7) was second.
Dunn, Cheeks, and Farris all had five points in the low-scoring half.
Both teams attempted 29 shots but RMU totaled a better field-goal percentage despite also being lackluster. Robert Morris reached a 34.5% mark compared to YSU’s 27.6%.
Like a broken record that can’t be shut off, the Colonials were crushed on the boards significantly 27-13 and 9-1 on the offensive glass. Despite this, the team only found themselves down by two thanks in part to the cold shooting of YSU.
If the first half was a snoozefest, the second half was the Pittsburgh ‘boom’ and a nonstop display of energy.
Kam Farris caught fire as well as both teams, combining to score 25 points in less than five minutes including three triples.
The score sat 39-38 YSU at the under 16 break and both teams on pace to smash their first-half point totals in the second’s first 10 minutes.
Stone played his way into foul trouble with four and 13 minutes left losing significant height to an already challenged rebounding team.
RMU took the lead on a Cheeks layup but Michael Akuchie fired right back with a three to force a timeout and 11:32 on the clock at 42-40 YSU.
Cheeks returned from the timeout to record another three-point play opportunity cut in half by a media timeout.
RMU contained the lead from that point and only saw it go away when two Tevin Olison free throws tied it at 47. He later grabbed the lead for the Penguins on a shot from behind the arc going into a timeout with 6:39 on the board.
The next minute was scoreless but ended on one of two Jamir Thomas foul shots. Olison punctuated his stamp on the night knocking down another triple followed up by a Thomas layup. The quick outburst forced an RMU timeout just before the four-minute mark as YSU led 56-49.
Robert Morris looked to fight back in it and hoped to do so the same way it earned the night’s most impactful plays. Spear completed a layup plus the foul free throw to make it 56-52 and took a hit to the basket the next time down the floor.
Spear then fouled Akuchie on the other end, resulting in two made free throws and YSU in the double bonus.
Daniel Ogoro was called for an offensive foul and YSU led 58-54 to lose possession and eventually result in Michael Green III standing at the free-throw line to sink two huge shots.
RMU’s full-court pressure was no match for YSU as the Penguins battled for second-chance points and retook a four-point advantage.
Akuchie sealed it after the shot clock was turned off making two foul shots and causing Toole to call time down 62-58.
The Penguins hitting their free throws was the deciding factor in the final minute to earn Youngstown State the victory.
Akuchie totaled 19 points and 12 rebounds to pace all players. Dunn (15), Cheeks (12), Spear (11), and Farris (10) all scored in double figures. Cheeks also pulled down 10 boards.
RMU shot a respectable 40.4% from the floor but 2-20 from behind the arc. The main factor, once again, was the battle of the boards as the Penguins dominated the glass 49-24 and 18-3 on the offensive end.
Despite turning it over a whopping 26 times, the Penguins still found a way to pull out a victory at the UPMC Events Center.
Robert Morris returns to the floor Friday night hosting Cleveland State at 7 p.m. for the second of a five-game homestand.