Rough start for Barnes, Penguins against VCU

Youngstown State forward Heidi Schlegel (15) goes up for a shot while being defended by Virginia Commonwealth’s Ryen Henry during the second half of Saturday’s season opener at the Beeghly Center. Schlegel lead the Penguins with 27 points and nine rebounds in YSU’s 85-66 loss agsinst the Rams. Photo by Dustin Livesay | The Jambar

In a season-opener for the Penguins women’s basketball team that featured a new head coach and an injury-depleted roster still trying to figure itself out, one thing was apparent after an 85-66 loss to Virginia Commonwealth University.

“It’s going to be a process and it has been a process already,” Heidi Schlegel, Youngstown State University’s power forward, said.

Evidently, the Penguins still have a ways to go.

Playing without point guard Shar’Rae Davis (illness) and shooting guard Monica Touvelle (injury), YSU committed 27 turnovers in John Barnes’ coaching debut Saturday afternoon inside the Beeghly Center.

The Rams (1-0) took control of the game late in the first half, using a 12-0 run to take a 46-29 halftime advantage.

“We started turning it over and our confidence kind of went south,” Barnes said. “[VCU]’s started to grow and that was really the difference in the game.”

Senior Liz Hornberger, replacing Davis at point guard, had 10 turnovers.

“She’s not used to playing the point,” Barnes said. “So really, that was the primary thing.”

Barnes added he will use many early season games to figure out effective lineup combinations – especially in the backcourt.

The Penguins starting guards – Hornberger, Melissa Thompson and Karen Flagg – combined for seven points on 3 of 13 shooting.

“We’re gonna have to try different people at the point, different people at the ‘2,’ how we’re handling pressure and attacking,” Barnes said. “All of that has to be adjusted game to game.”

YSU (0-1) managed a better second half, as VCU outscored the Penguins 39-37. Much of it was due to a strong performance from Schlegel, who scored a career-high 27 points.

“We were a lot more aggressive on offense,” she said. “At halftime coach made it a point to be more aggressive and drive more.”

Latisha Walker added 18 points and 10 rebounds for YSU in her first game as a Penguin. Schlegel said it will be a team-effort to replace the scoring void left by all-time leading scorer Brandi Brown.

“Every night it’s gonna vary – you have your on and off nights,” she said. “Every night we’re gonna need somebody to step up and play well.”

Monna Finney-Smith paced VCU with 18 points, while Adaeze Alaeze added 15 and Robyn Parks tallied 14.

The Penguins return to action Wednesday when they host the University at Buffalo at 7:05 p.m.

“Obviously I’m disappointed,” Barnes said. “You want to come out and play well…But I’m not gonna give up on them. We’ll keep believing, keep pushing, keep teaching and we have to get better everyday.”