By Brian Yauger
For the fourth time in seven years, the Youngstown State University Penguins women’s basketball team has started 2-0 with a 74-63 victory over the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers.
The Penguins (2-0) more than doubled the Ramblers rebound total, grabbing 48 boards compared to Loyola’s 23. Chelsea Olson brought down 12 of her own.
“That [rebounding] was a big key coming into the game,” sophomore guard McKenah Peters said. “In the past we’ve been outrebounded by many teams, so just coming in and getting a body on everyone and hitting the boards was huge to outrebound them.”
The Penguins had a bit of a slow third quarter, shooting 4-of-14 from the field, and giving up 20 points to the Ramblers (0-1). Guard Janae Gonzales led the team in points with 14.
“I thought Loyola is much improved from last year, the coaching staff is doing a great job,” Penguins head coach John Barnes said. “I thought they played really hard, I thought they played to their strengths. Made a really nice comeback. We had some looks that – several wide open threes that didn’t go in. Two or three wide open layups that we weren’t able to finish. We make a couple of those, make a couple of layups and we’re fine, but they came back, took a one point lead.”
Barnes also added “our kids showed a lot of grit, a lot of toughness to find a way to manufacture some baskets and get some stops.”
Sarah Cash led the team in points, shooting 6-of-8 from the field and 5-of-7 on free throws for a total of 17.
Playing a large role in the Penguins holding on was an 8-0 run, with six of those points from Peters.
“I mean coach Barnes drew up a couple plays for me to drive to the basket with my left hand because they think I’m going to shoot the ball, and I just took advantage of my teammates creating space for me to take the ball to the hole and score,” Peters said.
Peters finished with 12 points and eight rebounds on 5-of-8 shooting.
With space being created, comes opportunities for other players, and with opportunities comes confidence. Senior Alison Smolinski is still finding her confidence after returning from last season’s foot injury, and looks to have found it, shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc and scoring 16 points total.
“It’s about getting my confidence back,” Smolinski said. “My coaches always say ‘shooters shoot’ and once I hit one, they usually draw up a play for me so I just start feeling myself.”
The Penguins made the most of their many opportunities at the free throw line, connecting on 22 of their 25 shots, shooting 88 percent from the line.
“Well we were really working to get the ball inside, so for Sarah to shoot seven was big,” Barnes said. “I think six of those were down the stretch when they were fouling to get back into it so it wasn’t quite as skewed, but to get to the free throw line that many times is a good thing, and I thought our kids did a good job of not fouling, and making them make shots over hands and then boxing out.”
The Penguins had just one concerning area which was 16 turnovers that turned into 22 Ramblers points. Loyola only had five turnovers.
YSU looks to move to 3-0 when they travel to Pittsburgh to face the University of Pittsburgh on Tuesday at 7 p.m.