The Wright State Raiders threw everything they could at Horizon League leading scorer Cameron Morse, and nothing worked as the Youngstown State junior guard poured in 35 points.
But in the closing seconds with the Penguins trailing by three, WSU made sure once Morse gave up the ball he didn’t get it back, forcing a Brett Franz 3-pointer that missed the mark as the Raiders held on for an 84-81 victory Thursday night at the Beeghly Center.
“He came off the ball screen and we trapped him and made him get rid of the ball, and then Mark Hughes did a nice job on him and didn’t let him get it back,” WSU coach Scott Nagy said. “There’s good offensive players and there are great ones, and he’s a great offensive player. There isn’t any question about it.”
Mark Alstork nearly matched Morse with 33 points as WSU won for the seventh time in nine games to improve to 18-9 overall and 9-5 in the Horizon League.
Alstork was 11 of 11 from the free-throw line, the last two of which pushed a one-point lead to three with 24 seconds remaining, setting up the final stop.
“We put Russ (Hughes’ nickname) on him, the birthday boy, and he didn’t get off a shot and we’re glad to come out with the win,” Alstork said.
YSU, which lost its fifth straight to fall to 10-18, 4-11, beat Wright State 80-75 earlier this season after rallying from a 14-point halftime deficit. And the Penguins almost pulled off another comeback after falling behind by as many as 11 in the first half before jumping on the shoulders of Morse, who scored 28 of his 35 points in the second half.
Morse finished 13 of 23 from the floor, including 4 of 11 from 3-point range.
“When he got going was when we fouled him early in the second half and put him on the free-throw line,” Nagy said. “And once a great scorer sees the ball go in, they don’t even have to look at the rim anymore.”
Morse scored 16 consecutive points for the Penguins at one point to draw them within 76-75 with 3:47 to go, but Alstork answered with his own 5-0 run on a 3-pointer and two free throws to give the Raiders some cushion.
YSU got within 82-81 on a layup by senior center Jorden Kaufman, who scored 17 points on 8 of 10 shooting, with 24 seconds remaining, but Alstork capped the night with his final two free throws.
WSU junior guard Justin Mitchell scored 13 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds in addition to putting a hand in the face of Morse on a number of the tough, contested shots he made.
“He took a lot of tough shots and some of them went down, so credit to him,” Mitchell said. “He can really put the ball in the hole.”
Junior guard Grant Benzinger added 12 points for WSU, and senior forward Steven Davis had 11.
Hughes, a Youngstown native, scored five points and had four assists, one shy of his career high, in addition to the big defensive stop on Morse on day after turning 20.
WSU returns to action Saturday after noon at 3:30 at Cleveland State.