There is, and will always be, a first for everything in sports, even when somebody thinks that he or she has seen it all.
The Youngstown State University women’s basketball team accomplished a few firsts Thursday night in Beeghly Center that nobody has seen or heard of before.
The most important first is YSU’s 66-57 victory over the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and ending a 17-game losing streak against the Phoenix (8-7, 1-2). It wasn’t the first time the Penguins (7-9, 3-0) defeated Green Bay in its history, but it was the first win over the Phoenix in Beeghly Center. The last time YSU defeated Green Bay was on Feb. 19, 2005.
“Just seeing how excited the girls were in the locker room shows what it means to them and all of us as a team,” Jenna Hirsch said.
Thursday night’s victory sealed the Penguins’ third conference victory this season. It is the first time YSU begins 3-0 in the Horizon League since joining in 2001.
The Penguins also remain in first place along with Cleveland State University. The Vikings defeated the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 73-63, on Thursday to keep them tied with YSU.
The key against Green Bay was defense. The Penguins forced 22 turnovers —even though they committed 24 themselves — and scored 24 points off of them. The Phoenix shot 31.3 percent from the field and only 22.5 from beyond the 3-point line.
“We’re trying to build the program on our defense,” coach John Barnes said. “I thought we made some shots tonight, and we’ve been making more as of late. Obviously, you’ve got to do that to win games, and it kind of came together.”
YSU made 44.7 percent of its shots and eight 3-pointers on 20 attempts (40 percent). Hirsch paced YSU with a career and game-high 20 points. The freshman scored four points in her previous three games, including two scoreless efforts.
“Having to play in these types of games and environments, she’s learning a lot,” Barnes said. “She just takes it all in stride and keeps playing hard. When she figures out what she can do, she can do this on a regular basis.”
The Penguins also prevailed with limited playing time from their leading scorer, Heidi Schlegel. She was in foul trouble all game before fouling out late in the second half. Schlegel, who ranks third in the conference with 20.2 points per game, scored seven in 12 minutes.
Not only Schlegel, but Latisha Walker was also in foul trouble. The Penguins, for the most part, played without its two starting forwards.
“With them out, we just played that much harder,” Hirsch said. “We [ran] faster, [and] we could run the floor better. It had its downfalls, but, at the same time, we turned that into something that we could do better with.”
Melissa Thompson, Monica Touvelle and Kelsea Newman filled the voids. Touvelle finished with 15 points while Thompson had six. She also locked down defensively along with Newman.
Next for YSU is another home game against Milwaukee on Saturday beginning at 4:35 p.m.