February is for the girls

Mady Aulbach sizes up a defender at home. Photo by Dylan Lux / The Jambar

By Dylan Lux

Since the start of February, the Youngstown State University women’s basketball team has been 3-0 against Horizon League opponents.

The team started the month with a 73-66 win against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee at home Feb. 3, splitting the season series with the Panthers.

Five days later, YSU traveled north to meet Michigan-based opponent Oakland University. The two 5-8 teams in the Horizon League fought for the seventh spot in the conference. 

The Penguins shot 50% or higher from the field for the length of the contest. They shot a game-high 62% from the field in the third quarter, hitting an average of 55% of their baskets.

The Penguins held the Golden Grizzlies to under 45% shooting en route to an 85-79 victory.

All five starters scored in double digits, as fifth-year senior Shay-Lee Kirby led the way with 24 points, nailing five 3-pointers on nine attempts. 

Fifth-year guard Dena Jarrells put up 19 points, while senior guard Malia Magestro had 18. Junior guard Hailey Thierry and fifth-year forward Emily Saunders each pitched in 10 points.

Magestro was averaging just under 20 points per game after the Oakland contest. 

Interim head coach John Nicolais said after a slow start to the season, Magestro’s aggressiveness and ability to attack the basket has allowed her to play a bigger role.

“[Magestro] did a great job in the Milwaukee game attacking her matchups and getting to the rim, sometimes getting fouled or just scoring on her own,” Nicolais said. “[Magestro’s] aggressiveness of putting the ball on the floor has certainly helped her production.”

John Nicolais talks to his team on the court. Photo by Dylan Lux / The Jambar

With the win, Youngstown State stayed in Michigan to face off against the University of Detroit Mercy on Feb. 10.

The Penguins and the Titans had a low-scoring affair, as the combined total of the two final scores was 103 points. 

Despite both teams having below average shooting percentages, YSU prevailed in the matchup with a 54-49 win. The ‘Guins held Detroit Mercy to 18% from beyond the arc while shooting 35% as a team.

Sitting at 7-8 in the Horizon League, the women’s basketball team can continue to move up the ranks with a win in its next game. The Penguins currently rank seventh in the conference.

If Detroit Mercy or Milwaukee lose their next contests, YSU could move up as high as fifth place.

Fifth-year senior Mady Aulbach said the road trip was good for the team’s confidence and showed it’s heading in the right direction.

“To get those wins on the road — which is harder to do — was really fun,” Aulbach said. “It shows the trend we’re on right now. Everything is kind of coming together for us, so hopefully the pieces keep coming together and we play our best basketball towards the end of February,” Aulbach said. 

The next matchup for the Penguins brought them to the final game of their three-game road stint. They went head-to-head against Wright State University Raiders at 7 p.m. on Feb. 14 in Dayton.

In the previous matchup against WSU, the Raiders were victorious, 82-68. The Penguins didn’t share any love with Wright State on Valentine’s Day, as they’ll looked to split the season series in the primetime matchup on ESPN+.