Comeback checkmated in Colonial country

The team celebrating after a basket. Photo by Dylan Lux / The Jambar

By Dylan Lux

After a 2-0 start to the season, the Youngstown State University women’s basketball team has hit a rough stretch as it began conference play Nov. 30 against the University of Detroit Mercy.

Four Penguins average over eight points per game — as fifth-year forward Emily Saunders averages 11.5 points per game to go along with 6.5 rebounds per game.

Coming into the matchup with the Titans, the Penguins were at a 2-4 record. The home matchup opened up Horizon League play for the 2023-24 season.

Acting head coach John Nicolais wants to treat the upcoming conference games like a new slate.

“We know that we have conference play coming, and everybody is 0-0,” Nicolais said. “We want to get off to a good start.”

UDM came into the game with a 4-3 overall record, looking to improve on its winning season.

YSU yet again struggled from 3-point range in the first half, shooting 5-22 from three through the first 20 minutes of play. The 22.7% clip from three led to the Penguins trailing at half, 32-25.

The second half saw similar shooting numbers from the Penguins, as they only drained one more 3-pointer in 12 attempts.

With the shooting woes from Youngstown State, the team came up short at home against Detroit Mercy, 59-50.

The Penguins finished the game shooting 20-61, finishing with a 32.8% field goal percentage. From 3-point range, the team ended the contest 6-34 — just 17.6%.

Senior guard Malia Magestro — one of the four Penguins averaging at least eight points per game — said shot selection and the team’s effort were not key factors in the team’s loss.

“Our effort’s there — we had a lot of good looks … a lot of wide open threes, myself included, they just didn’t go in today,” Magestro said.

To wrap up the two-game conference stretch, the team traveled to Moon Township, Pennsylvania for a matchup with the 2-5 Robert Morris University. The Colonials were also 0-1 in conference play after their loss to Cleveland State University.

RMU held a 21-14 lead on YSU through one quarter of play, but the ‘Guins managed to trim the lead to four at halftime, with Robert Morris leading 34-30.

The Penguins took the lead in the second half and held a 58-55 lead late in the fourth quarter.

With 22 seconds remaining in the contest, YSU held a 63-62 lead after a Saunders free throw, but the Colonials came back with a layup on the other end to retake the lead, 64-63.

A turnover by Magestro attempting to get the ball to Saunders gave the ball back to the Colonials, who buried a free throw to go up by two, and the Penguins were unable to answer, giving them their sixth straight loss.

Leading the way in points for Youngstown State was junior Hailey Thierry, who scored a career-high 16 points with a block.

Thierry was followed by Magestro and Saunders, who each finished with 13 points. 

The Penguins struggled from beyond the arc, finishing with four 3-pointers in 22 attempts.

The Penguin’s next matchup brought them back to the Beeghly Center for a non-conference matchup with the University of Akron. The game took place Dec. 6 at 6:30 p.m.

To view stats from the game, visit