By John Ostapowicz
The Youngstown State University women’s basketball team dropped two hard-fought games against Horizon League opponents, Purdue University Fort Wayne and Cleveland State University, Feb. 2 and 4.
The Penguins started out strong against Purdue Fort Wayne on Feb. 2, but fell short, 67-65. Despite a career-high 23 points from sixth-year senior Megan Callahan, Youngstown State had its four-game win streak snapped.
In the final moments of the game, the offense was led by Callahan after a deep 3-pointer to spark a 6-0 run for the Penguins. After a clutch trio of free-throws from senior Paige Shy, the score was tied up.
With 22 seconds left, fifth year Lilly Ritz’s attempt to tie the game was blocked by the Mastodons on the final possession of the game.
Despite the loss, Ritz finished the day with 12 points and 12 rebounds, recording her 13th double-double of the season, while going 5-of-6 from the field.
In response to the tough loss to Purdue Fort Wayne, head coach John Barnes knew that going into the game that it would be a competitive game.
“It was close the whole way and you need to build a cushion down the stretch,” Barnes said. “We were not able to do that and it got us in the end.”
As a team, Youngstown State shot 41.5% and went 10-23 from the 3-point line. From the free-throw line, the Penguins shot below 31%.
With a quick turn around, the Penguins traveled to Cleveland State University on Feb. 4. The Vikings pulled away in the third quarter, scoring 13 unanswered points and defeating the Penguins, 81-48.
With four fouls from Ritz and senior Emily Saunders, the Vikings went on a 18-0 run in third to seal the deal for the Penguins.
With two straight losses, the Penguins fall two games behind the Vikings in the Horizon League standings. The women fall to 16-7 and 10-4 in conference play.
In response to the losses on the road, senior Mady Aulbach talked about the character of the team and bouncing back from tough times.
“What shows our character is how we bounce back from these losses,” Aulbach said.
Within the Horizon League, several teams lost close games, leading to a shake up in the conference.
“There were several upsets over the weekend and you have to be ready to play at a high level or you’re getting beat,” Barnes said.
As of Feb. 7, Youngstown State is ranked second defensively holding opponents to 57.3 ppg and fifth offensively averaging 67.3 ppg in the Horizon League.
The women’s basketball team is back in action, Feb. 9 against Oakland University, marking the start of a four-game homestand inside the Beeghly Center.
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. and can be listened to on 570 WKBN.