By Brian Yauger
With conference play on the Horizon, yeah I said it, the Youngstown State University women’s basketball team won in impressive fashion, beating St. Francis University (Pa.), 80-56. That marked the 600th win in YSU women’s basketball history.
“Defensively we’ve been playing very solidly,” Penguins head coach John Barnes said. “Making the opposing team take difficult shots and doing well on the boards. As far as today was a bit of a letdown on the boards, giving up 14 offensive rebounds. That’s not typical for us, but I think the team has been playing really hard defensively and trying to make every shot difficult. We’ve been holding them to a very low field goal percentage, 32 percent today, and that gives you a chance to wins no matter how you’re shooting the ball.”
The Penguins had a bit of a rough start, falling behind 9-2, but that didn’t last long, scoring 15 unanswered to take a 17-9 lead. Smolinski jump started the rush, hitting two 3-pointers
Smolinski led the team with 23 points and shot from behind the arc just as well as her record breaking performance of nine 3-pointers last game, adding six more threes, giving her 15 3-pointers over the last two games.
“My coaches always tell me to shoot the ball, and they thankfully went in there and that just gave us some confidence,” Smolinski said. “It was kind of a weird start, but we picked it up and got the W. My teammates do a great job of getting all our guards open. I think tonight we were good penetrating and going to the hoop and I think we shot more free throws than we have all year so that was really good. We’re all great shooters and we work on it in practice, and coach Barnes has a lot of good plays for us.”
Sarah Cash lit up the stat sheet in an incredibly quiet 20-point game. Cash shot 70 percent from the field, grabbed five rebounds and got four assists. Cash doesn’t count her stats though, she’s worried about more important things.
“Never,” Cash said. “It is what it is. As long as we win that’s all that matters.”
The win against St. Francis makes three in a row for the Penguins. What’s working so well? The answer is simple. Defense.
“We’ve really focused on playing good defense and shutting down their best players every day,” Cash said.
This victory gives the Penguins the best record in the Horizon League, taking the crown from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
The Penguins have a week and a half off, before heading to Lewisburg, Pa. to take on the Bucknell University Bison.
“I think we’re just focused on what we need to do to win games,” Barnes said. “Our coaching staff has been doing a great job with the scouting reports, and making sure the players know what they need to do and what the players they’re guarding do.”
Barnes continued to praise his staff as much as anything for the preparation.
“I’m very happy and proud of the staff. We’re just trying to work hard and take it one game at a time,” Barnes said. “I know it’s cliche but that’s what we’re doing. We’ve got a huge challenge with Bucknell, ranked in the top 10 in the mid-major poll, at home with a lot of seniors. We’re going to enjoy this for a day or two, then get focused on how to compete with Bucknell.”