By Kyle Wills
Youngstown State University’s women’s basketball team fought off Purdue University Fort Wayne for a 62-59 victory in round one of the 2021 Horizon League Women’s Basketball Championship, on Thursday at the Beeghly Center.
All-conference forwards Mary Dunn and Nneka Obiazor were responsible for 46 of the team’s 62 points. Dunn finished with a season-high 26 points and 10 rebounds, while Obiazor had 20 points of her own. The duo scored all of YSU’s 18 points in the first period.
YSU won both regular-season games with impressive 102-60 and 68-52 victories, but Fort Wayne fought from the tip, making six of their first seven attempts from the field and leading for 16:49 of the game. There were 10 lead changes and 10 ties, with no team leading by more than six.
The women shot 14-for-29 from the field in the first half for 48.3%, but had nine turnovers and went 0-for-6 from 3-point range. The Mastodons shot 42.9% and were 6-for-12 from 3-point range while being plus-three in turnover margin.
Dunn scored her 26th point from Olson’s eighth assist at the 3:32 mark in the fourth period to put the Penguins ahead 60-59. Obiazor finished the scoring on a bucket from Dunn with 1:22 left. The Penguins would hold on from there. Dunn’s 26 points were the second-most ever scored by a Penguin in the Horizon League Women’s Basketball Championship playoff game.
During Thursday’s post-game press conference, head coach John Barnes talked about how Dunn and Obiazor are able to build off each other.
“Mary [Dunn’s] been a presence in the paint for the past three, four years for us,” he said. “Nneka [Obiazor] is just difficult to guard because she’s strong and physical posting up, but she can also step out and shoot the outside shot.”
YSU shot 49.1% overall, and was 25-for-43 inside the arc. While holding a 46-18 edge in paint scoring, YSU also dominated on the glass with an impressive 36-22 rebound advantage.
Also during the post-game press conference, Barnes acknowledged the fight the Mastodons brought to the first round.
“My dad and my older brother always talked about it being better to not play well and win than play a great game and lose, so we’re going to take that with this game,” he said. “I thought Purdue Fort Wayne did a great job. They played loose, they played hard. I thought they made a lot of shots. They just went out there and played their butts off, so I’m giving them a lot of credit.”
After their win Thursday against Fort Wayne, YSU played at second-seeded Milwaukee in the quarterfinals of the Horizon League Women’s Basketball Championship on Tuesday. This was the third time in the last four years that the Penguins and Panthers have met in the championship. YSU pushed Horizon League regular-season champion Milwaukee to a deadlock through 33 minutes, but the Panthers prevailed 77-68 in the quarterfinals, ending YSU’s championship competition.