By Marc Weems
With the Youngstown State University Women’s basketball team (7-10, 3-3 Horizon League) currently on a three-game win streak, YSU will look to take their winning ways on the road.
They will travel to Michigan to play the University of Detroit Mercy (8-9, 4-2 HL) on Jan. 20. They also play Oakland University (9-8, 3-3 HL) on Jan. 22.
YSU has now propelled themselves into the middle of the pack in the conference standings with their three consecutive wins.
“I think we are playing better defense for one,” said YSU head coach John Barnes. “Obviously, our offense has come around, for two. I think that the players are getting more comfortable with each other and also more comfortable on the floor together. We came really close to getting a win against Northern Kentucky, so we knew we were getting better.”
Barnes said that in each of the last three games the team has been getting better, but they have yet to play a complete game in his eyes.
For Detroit Mercy, they have three players in double figure scoring with guard Rosanna Reynolds being the leading player with 16.4 points per game with 5.5 rebounds per game.
Forward Brianne Cohen averages 13 points per game and Nicole Urbanick averages 11.3 points per game.
UDM averages 72.6 points per game while shooting 65 percent from the free throw line, but gives up 70 points per game while teams shoot only 28 percent from the 3-point line.
“I think we all just have more confidence now,” YSU guard Alison Smolinski said. “We are really playing relaxed now. We are playing how we are supposed to and have followed the game plan.”
Recently, YSU’s defense has held opponents to just 63.6 points per game in the last three games. In those three games, they are holding opponents to just 39.8 percent shooting when teams usually shoot 42 percent. They have also held opponents to 25 percent from three and just 64 percent from the free throw line.
UDM’s biggest problem is that they get out-rebounded by almost ten rebounds a game and they’ve also lost two of their three games. They have shot 42 percent this season, which will be tough for YSU to handle.
YSU’s game after that against Oakland will also be a tough test, although they have lost three out of their last four games. In that span, the Golden Grizzlies have shot 36 percent and 29 percent from the 3-point line. Oakland has shot 76 percent from the free throw line which is better than their season average.
“After getting a few wins, our confidence definitely went up,” Barnes said. “We just have to stay focused. I thought that that game [against Cleveland State on Jan. 16] was our closest game in terms of staying focused and executing what we want to do.”
In recent games, YSU has outscored opponents by more than 15 points a game. That has come from strong bench including Smolinski, who has scored 19 and 30 in her last two games back from injury.
“The three wins are definitely going to help with our confidence,” Smolinski said. “Playin’ on the road is tough, but we are going to stick to the game plan and try to get the wins. I think that we are playing the best that we have played all season.”
Barnes said that Detroit is very talented and have arguably the best group of talent in the league and maybe the player of the year in Rosanna Reynolds.
“They didn’t really have a choice,” Barnes said about players maturing quickly. “They get thrown into the mix. With that kind of experience, you grow up fast. It’s like when a dad teaches you how to swim and he throws you into the water — you got to swim. You hate to do that, but we didn’t have a choice.”
Barnes also said that leaders like Indiya Benjamin and Jenna Hirsch have been huge.