By Cameron Blair
Four of Eastern’s five starters reached double figures as the Colonels defeated Youngstown State 61-50 and snapped a four-game losing streak Saturday at McBrayer Arena.The Colonels relied on solid inside play from seniors Darnell Dialls and Jamaal Douglas and tight defense to extend their home winning streak to eight games. Eastern never trailed at any point during the contest.
Eastern held Youngstown State to 36.4 percent shooting for the game. The Penguins also connected on only three of their 16 3-point attempts.
“We knew we had to come out strong and set the tone in the game as seniors,” Dialls said.
Dialls led the Colonels in both scoring and rebounding. The senior snagged 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds to go along with three assists. Dialls was also efficient, making eight of his 12 shots.
“Darnell can score on anyone in the post,” Douglas said.
Douglas also played strong inside for the Colonels, scoring 10 points while making five of his seven field goal attempts. He also grabbed nine rebounds in the game, four of which were on the offensive glass.
Head Coach Jeff Neubauer said getting the ball inside was a focal point for the Colonels against the Penguins.
“We were very efficient and effective inside tonight,” Neubauer said. “We knew this would be a game where our inside play had to be good.”
Eastern set the tone early in the game, pounding the ball inside to Douglas and Dialls while scoring the game’s first six points. The Colonels’ lead reached double digits at 20-10 with 8:37 remaining in the first half.
Youngstown State used a 7-2 run to cut Eastern’s lead to 22-17 later in the half. However, the Colonels scored seven of the final nine points in the half to extend their lead to 29-19 at the break.
Eastern pulled out to the lead despite the first-half struggles of the backcourt tandem of Mike Rose and Adam Leonard. Rose struggled shooting, missing all four of his first-half attempts while Leonard picked up two early fouls and played only 11 minutes in the half.
“The fact that Adam had foul trouble and still had a 10-point lead at the half is very encouraging,” Neubauer said.
Dialls and Douglas picked up the scoring slack for the Colonels in the first half. The duo scored 20 of Eastern’s 29 first-half points and grabbed ten of the team’s 19 rebounds.
The Colonel defense kept Youngstown State from getting close early. Eastern had five steals and forced 11 Penguin turnovers in the first half. The Penguins also shot only 30.4 percent from the field in the half, making only seven of their 23 shots.
“I’m proud of what our defense did tonight,” Neubauer said. “Our goal was to hold them under 59 points and we held them to 50.”
Eastern was also able to hold Byron Davis, the Penguins’ leading scorer, in check. Davis scored only eight points and made only three of his 10 field-goal attempts. He came into the game averaging 15.8 points per game.
Youngstown State came out strong in the second half, cutting the Colonel lead to five at one point. However, Eastern pushed the lead back to double digits after Rose hit a 3-pointer and freshman Justin Stommes grabbed a steal and made a breakaway dunk.
The steal was one of four for Stommes on the night. The freshman was making only his second start of the season and finished the night with eight points and five rebounds.
“His length really helps us as he grabbed four steals tonight,” Neubauer said. “He also got five rebounds and that helped the team.”
The Penguins were never able to get the Colonel lead under double digits after Stommes’ dunk. Eastern pushed the lead out to 15 at 54-39 with six minutes left in the game.
Eastern was able to maintain its lead partly because of its work on the glass. The Colonels finished the game with a 35-33 rebounding edge after being out-rebounded by 20 in their loss to James Madison.
Douglas said the team was motivated to crash the boards harder after being dominated in the last game.
“I was really upset the last couple days,” Douglas said. “We were really outworked and there is no way another team should ever outwork us.”
Rose and Leonard got back on track for the Colonels in the second half. Rose scored 11 of his 12 points in the half and connected on two of his 3-pointers. Leonard scored seven of his 10 points in the second half.
The Colonels’ victory over the Penguins comes one season after Youngstown State defeated Eastern 66-61 on ESPNU’s Bracket Busters.
Eastern will face WKU Saturday in the basketball version of the Battle for the Bluegrass.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at McBrayer Arena.