YOUNGSTOWN - Blake Allen has dogged determination, especially when it comes to his basketball team.
The Youngstown State senior guard shot 800 to 900 3-point shots in the two days leading up to Friday's home opener with St. Francis (Pa.), which he said is "pretty typical."
His persistence paid off in the second half as the 6-foot-1, 180-pound guard started to swish a couple of 3s during a 75-60 victory.
The Penguins (3-0) saw Allen, who had three points at intermission, go 5 of 9 from beyond the arc after halftime to push YSU to the win in its first game at Beeghly Center this season. He was 6 of 10 from 3 for 18 points, while the Penguins were 8 of 16 from 3. Kendrick Perry paced YSU with 19 points.
"He really carried us," YSU coach Jerry Slocum said of Allen.
St. Francis (0-3) cut the lead to 31-28 with 17:55 remaining, but YSU then went on a 16-4 run where Allen drained 3s in a minute to push the Penguin lead to 47-32 with 14:08 remaining.
Slocum said YSU's defense was quite effective right after the first 20 minutes.
"The key was the first 7 to 8 minutes of the second half, which led to fast-break basketball," he said.
The Red Flash seemingly tried to cut the advantage to less than double figures, but it was Allen's 3s at opportune times that kept St. Francis at a safe distance.
St. Francis played pretty close to YSU in the first half, by four, 19-15, with less than 8 minutes left.
"The big thing for us in the second half is we were able to play with a little more energy," said Allen, whose team shot 61 percent in the second half. "I thought we were a little dead. I didn't know if it was first-game home jitters. We looked a little dead. Second half, we fed off of our defense and we were able to get it going offensively."
Offensively, Allen was able to get his looks. Slocum would prefer him to be at the shooting guard, while Perry stays at the point.
"If D.J. (Cole) can (come off the bench and) play a little bit better, he played good in the two away games, we can move Blake over to the two-guard spot, which will allow us to put him in a position where he can come off some doubles a little bit quicker," Slocum said. "It makes my life a little bit easier, trying to figure out ways to get him three to four passes to get him a shot."
YSU did find ways to get Allen the ball Friday. He even felt like a demanding wide receiver expecting the football thrown to him.
"I definitely get that feeling," he said. "I have really unselfish teammates and they look for me. It's fun to play with those guys."
For Allen, it's fun to see his practice pay off.
"I practice all the time, trying to put as much extra time in the gym as possible," he said. "Luckily, it showed up tonight."
LACK OF BENCH PLAY: The Penguins were outscored 26-4 by St. Francis in point from their respective benches.
Besides Allen and Perry, starters Kamren Belin (11 points), Damian Eargle (12 points) and Shawn Amiker (11 points) all scored in double figures.
Cole and Bobby Hain each had two points off the bench.
Stephon Whyatt came off the Red Flash bench to score a team-high 18 points, while starter Ollie Jackson had 14.
It didn't help that YSU had 14 turnovers.
"The bigger lineups, we have more depth against those kind of guys," Slocum said. "Against Georgia and against GW, we were able to play a lot of minutes with those guys. Tonight, it was a bad mismatch for guys like Fletch (Fletcher Larson, 6-8), Bobby (6-10). It never got comfortable. Every time we were on the verge of getting comfortable, we had a turnover. That was probably as poor of ball handling or taking care of possession that we've had in two scrimmages and in two games. Having 14 turnovers and seven from two guys does not make me very happy."
NEXT: The Penguins play three straight days starting Monday at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh during the Legends Classic.
Monday, the Penguins take on North Dakota State, while Tuesday YSU faces James Madison. Both games in Pittsburgh start at 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday, the Penguins battle the host Dukes starting at 7 p.m.