By Cameron Niemi
The Youngstown State University women’s basketball team returned home after losing two games on the road. The Penguins faced off against Oakland University on Feb. 9. The team defeated the Raiders in a dominant fashion, 85-62.
Four players scored in double-figures for Youngstown. Fifth-year senior Lilly Ritz had a dominant performance scoring 31 points, nine rebounds and also had five steals. That is the most points by a women’s player at YSU since 2015.
Junior Malia Magestro and sixth-year senior Megan Callahan both scored 12 points. Magestro added five assists and three rebounds. Junior Shay-Lee Kirby came off the bench and scored 13 points on a perfect 5-of-5 from the field, which tied her season high.
In the first quarter the ‘Guins jumped out to an early lead. They ended the quarter on an 8-0 run and led by 13 points. In the second quarter, the team kept the pressure up and led at halftime, 44-30.
In the third quarter, Ritz scored 10 points and the Penguins extended the lead to 20 by the end of the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the team finished strong and secured the 23 point victory. As a team it shot 54.1% from the field and also scored 40 points in the paint.
The team picked up its 11th conference win of the season and improved to 11-4 in the Horizon League.
Ritz spoke after the game about the team having 24 total assists and the importance of sharing the basketball after two tough road losses.
“We were just playing unselfish basketball and I think that’s when we do our best. Just making the extra pass, and getting the ball to the post and just getting the ball out to the shooters is what we needed to do,” Ritz said.
On Feb. 11, the last place University of Detroit Mercy came to town. The Penguins came out on top by a final score of 72-67 and improved to 12-4 in the Horizon League.
Despite 15 lead changes, and shooting 30.4% from 3-point-range the Penguins secured the five point victory at home.
Three players for the women scored in double figures. Ritz once again led the way with her 14th double-double for the season, as she scored 26 points and 12 rebounds along with three steals.
Callahan scored 16 points. Senior Paige Shy made some big plays down the stretch, scoring 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Magestro scored nine points and had seven rebounds.
After the first quarter, the Titans lead by three. In the second quarter, the Penguins battled back and tied the game at 30 going into halftime.
In the third quarter the Titans jumped out to a five-point lead, the Penguins once again climbed back and tied the game heading into the fourth.
The Guins’ went on a 10-0 run in the beginning of the fourth. The Titans brought the game within one, with less than 50 seconds remaining. The game came down to free throws and the Penguins went 6-for-8 and won the game.
Head coach John Barnes spoke after the game about the team struggling early against Detroit Mercy and how it came away with the win.
“I thought we were just off today and maybe that was their defense. We just didn’t have the same fire as we did against Oakland and I was worried about this because everybody played an outstanding game on Thursday, so I was a little worried about us not playing our best. But I thought we showed a lot of toughness and heart to come back and hold on,” Barnes said.
The team currently sits two games back of first place in the Horizon League. The Penguins have four games remaining, two at home and then two on the road. These games will be very important in deciding the Penguins seeding for the Horizon League tournament.
The Penguins continue their homestand at 7 p.m. on Feb. 17 as they host the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Then at 1 p.m. on Feb. 19 they host the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Both games can be listened to on 570 WKBN or watched on ESPN+.