Beginning this season with two early losses, senior Liz Hornberger (21) had a “major breakdown” on Friday with a 0-30 season looming in her mind.
Hornberger let out a calm, relieving sigh after Wednesday’s game at Beeghly Center. The Youngstown State University women’s basketball team started off strong against Northern Kentucky University and finished the same way, winning 67-53.
“I’m just really happy for our team because I think everybody was worried,” Hornberger said. “I think we showed a lot of toughness today. We came out and played all 40 minutes. I don’t know how many times we did that in my first three years here.”
The victory also earned head coach John Barnes his first career victory at YSU (1-2).
“They know how to win,” he said. “Coach [Bob] Boldon did a great job of turning this program around leading to a great season last year. With the seniors that we have, they know how to win, and they’ve done it before.”
The Penguins entered Wednesday shooting 11.1 percent from beyond the 3-point line. In turn, they hit their first seven out of eight attempts and led by 16 at halftime.
“It was unexpected,” Barnes said. “Then again, we make them in practice. I figured they were going to go down sooner or later.”
Some of that early energy is credited to last year’s game against NKU. The Norse defeated YSU after the Penguins began 4-0.
“I think there was a little chip on our shoulders, which I think we need to play like that all the time,” Hornberger said.
YSU finished with 11 3-pointers on 19 attempts (57.9 percent). The Norse (2-2) made two 3-point field goals on 24 attempts and only shot 32.2 percent from the field.
“We work on that all the time. I would say 80 percent of the drills we do in practice is on defense, and we’re still not perfect,” Hornberger said. “It’s a working progress.”
The biggest concern was guarding NKU junior Melody Doss who was averaging 25.7 points per game. She finished with 15 points.
“We were focused on Doss pretty much the whole game,” Barnes said. “Heidi [Schlegel] really worked hard to try to limit her touches, so I was really proud of her.”
Schlegel was just as impressive on the offensive side, too. The junior finished with a game-high 22 points and tallied six rebounds. Hornberger and sophomore Ashley Lawson each finished with 11 points.
Next for the Penguins is the season’s first road game at Bucknell University on Tuesday.
“They’re getting more comfortable with what the coaching staff is doing,” Barnes said. “I thought they came out with a lot of aggressiveness, a lot of confidence shooting the basketball. We made plays, and that’s what you got to do to win games.”