Women’s basketball continues Horizon League Slate

The YSU women's basketball team celebrates after getting a win in the Beeghly Center. Photo by Dylan Lux / The Jambar

By Marissa Masano

Over winter break, the Youngstown State University women’s basketball team rounded out non-conference play with a 4-6 record. It will continue the remainder of the season against Horizon League Opponents.

The team lost to Wright State University, 82-68, on Dec. 29, 2023. Senior Malia Magestro scored a season-high 22 points and led the team in made 3-pointers, free throws and rebounds.

Fifth-year Emily Saunders was the Penguins’ second-highest scorer with 14 points, and senior Lindsey Linard recorded a career-high 10 points.

Emily Saunders high-fives fans as she is announced in the starting lineup. Photo by Dylan Lux / The Jambar


The Penguins fell behind early as the Raiders scored the game’s first eight points. Within the second quarter, the Penguins cut the lead to four, but the Raiders took a 37-28 lead heading into halftime. 

YSU outscored WSU, 22-19, in the third quarter and headed into the fourth quarter with a score of 56-50.

Wright State extended its lead to 15 points to claim the victory inside the Beeghly Center. 

Youngstown State defeated Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, 58-56, on Dec. 3, 2023. Saunders led the Penguins’ scoring efforts with 19 points and nine rebounds.

The largest lead for either team was four points, and the Penguins held a 50-49 lead with under four minutes in the fourth quarter. IUPUI tied the game at 56-56 with 24.4 seconds left. 

Fifth-year Shay-Lee Kirby made two go-ahead free throws with 1.4 seconds left to secure the Penguins’ first Horizon League victory of the season. 

For Kirby, the team’s relentless efforts down the stretch helped them secure the win.

“We just have to make sure when it comes down to the final minutes — and it’s close like that — to just stay calm, don’t try to do too much, stay relaxed and play good [defense]. I think that’s what we did, and to get a stop, that gave us some momentum,” Kirby said. 

The Penguins continued their homestand Jan. 3, defeating Oakland University, 70-63. Fifth-years Dena Jarrells and Paige Shy led the Penguins with 18 points.

At halftime, the teams were tied at 32. Youngstown State started the third quarter strong, outscoring the Golden Grizzlies, 19-4, and taking a 57-44 lead.  

YSU maintained the lead and finished the game, with 51.1% shooting from the field. 

For head coach John Nicolais, the team benefitted from moving fluently as a team with the basketball.

“We moved the basketball, and that was the biggest thing. We spaced well, we moved, we got penetration. We were able to kick for inside-out looks and got high percentage shots around the basket,” Nicolais said. 

The Penguins traveled to Cleveland State University on Jan. 6 where the team was defeated, 79-37.

Saunders posted seven blocks — the most blocked shots by a Youngstown State women’s basketball player in 20 years. 

The senior’s seven blocks are also tied for the sixth-most by any Division 1 player this season.

The Penguins turned the ball over 25 times, and junior Haley Thierry was the team’s highest scorer with seven points.

The team’s offense struggled as it shot 20.6% overall and was 6-for-33 from long distance. 

The women’s basketball team is back in action against the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay on Jan. 11. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. and the game will be broadcasted on ESPN+ and 570 WKBN.