By Brian Yauger
The Youngstown State University women’s basketball team faced one of their toughest battles of the season and rose to the occasion, defeating the Horizon League-leading Wright State University, 83-68.
The win snapped a two-game skid for the Penguins (12-5, 4-2 HL) and a six-game drought against the Raiders (13-4, 5-1).
Defensive stalwart McKenah Peters continued her reign of terror. She tied her career high of 17 points, and made her case for the Horizon League All-Defensive Team. Peters scored 14 of those 17 points in the second quarter. She also grabbed five rebounds and stole the ball three times.
“I just tried my best to help my teammates in any way possible to help us win the game and just came out ready to play,” Peters said. “We all were fired up coming from the two losses on the away trip to Green Bay and Milwaukee. It just gave us fuel to our fire to come out and put it at them in the first half.”
Penguins coach John Barnes had high praise for Peters, crediting her for her strong first half performance.
“I was going to tell her — I didn’t get a chance to — but she really carried us early on in the game,” Barnes said. “I think we talk about this a lot. This is a team of ‘you never know who is going to be the one to carry you’. Whether it’s for a half, for a game, and then Sarah Cash came out and went on a little run and Al [Alison Smolinski] made some threes to carry us down the stretch. She [Peters] definitely carried us early and different players carried us throughout the game, a team effort for sure.”
Cash and Smolinski each put up 22 points in the win. Smolinski kept the 3-pointers coming, draining four more to push the all-time high even higher.
“I think my whole team today brought it,” Smolinski said. “Our defense really was on tonight and I think everyone was very confident on offense too. It kind of felt like the IUPUI game where we all just had that confidence and that energy and the atmosphere was awesome too.”
Cash continues to quietly rack up the numbers each and every game. In addition to her 22 points, she also shot 57 percent from the field during the game and grabbed three boards as well.
Wright State proved to be one of the most physical teams the Penguins have faced thus far into the season. The Raiders had a size advantage, but YSU matched them in aggression, battling them at every turn.
“We talked about that going in,” Barnes said. “They’re big, strong, physical, athletic and we just said ‘We have to bring everything we have. We’ve got to leave it all on the floor.’ I thought Amara Chikwe did an outstanding job battling. She was in there battling, doing everything to get rebounds to keep them off the glass. We got beat by three, but they’re capable of beating you by 20 on the glass if you let them. I thought all the players did a great job of bringing their best.”
Wright State’s leading scorer Angel Baker scored 27 points off the bench for the Raiders.
Chelsea Olson summarized the game with one shot. Olson hit a 3-point buzzer beater while being double teamed to end the third quarter and gave the Penguins a 62-43 lead.
With seven minutes left in the third quarter, the Penguins took a 50-30 lead and didn’t let up, keeping their lead to at least 12 for the rest of the game. While fatigue undoubtedly set in, the team made sure they kept their foot on the gas.
“We were definitely getting tired,” Smolinski said. “That’s when you kind of have to just tell each other to pick it up and not let this game slip through our fingers and we didn’t let it happen so we got the W.”
The Penguins don’t get long to rest, as they take on Northern Kentucky University on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Beeghley Center.