Women’s basketball suffers first conference loss

By Kyle Wills

The Youngstown State University women’s basketball team had mixed results at home, splitting the weekend homestead against conference opponents.

On Jan. 14, the women won big against Robert Morris University 69-46 despite having an off night offensively. The team shot 24-for-72 combined and 10-for-35 beyond the arc. However, it used 21 forced turnovers to help them leap past the Colonials.

Senior Lilly Ritz and junior Paige Shy carried the offense as Ritz finished with a double-double of 21 points and 15 rebounds while Shy was on fire from the 3-point line, draining five of her eight shots from deep. Her five shots from long range accounted for all 15 of her points.

Two days later, the Penguins again struggled offensively, as they lost to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in overtime 76-68. The team had an almost identical showing, shooting 24-for-71 combined and 9-for-35 from the 3-point, while also forcing 22 turnovers.

Despite having over 20 turnovers, the Jaguars shot 52% overall as a team to help them stretch past the Penguins.

Senior Chelsea Olson fouled out in the last quarter and was unable to play in the extra period. Head coach John Barnes said not having the team’s leader in overtime was an enormous blow.

“I felt like we were defeated after they made that run [at the end of the game] and then not having Chelsea — our body language wasn’t great. Chelsea’s an All-Conference player, so that was a big part,” Barnes said.

Sophomore guard Malia Magestro said it was challenging not having their point guard, but the team also needed to play a complete game.

“It was hard having [Olson] out. We let go at the end of overtime, we felt defeated a little bit. We knew it would be a battle, so we just needed to play 40 minutes,” Magestro said.

The following week on Jan. 20, Youngstown State once again battled Robert Morris on the road as senior guard Megan Callahan’s late game heroics helped put the Penguins on top 59-57.

Callahan finished the game with 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting, including 3-for-8 behind the 3-point line. Her final shot from deep at the buzzer changed fortunes for the Penguins. 

Ritz recorded a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Magestro was also in double figures with 11 points and found the net on three of her four 3-pointers. Sophomore guard Lexi Wagner made the most of her minutes off the bench, scoring 11 points on 3-for-5 shooting.

As a team, Youngstown State had issues controlling the ball as it committed 16 turnovers in the game.

Two days later, the women once again battled the Colonials for the third time in two weeks. The Penguins were once again victors 61-44.

Ritz had a monster game on the glass as she finished the contest with 18 rebounds to go along with 17 points. She also was a force in the paint, blocking two shots. Her performances last week gained her recognition, and she was awarded this week’s Nike Horizon League Player of the Week.

Magestro also had a big game, scoring 14 points on 4-for-7 shooting, including a last second layup to end the first quarter.

As a team, it was phenomenal at the line, converting 17-of-21 free throw attempts. Defensively, the Penguins held the Colonials to under 30% shooting and to 3-for-14 beyond the arc, while also forcing 10 turnovers. 

Youngstown State had better control of the ball this time around against Robert Morris as it struggled to keep possession in its previous contest. Coach Barnes would love to constantly see this kind of play.

“We definitely took care of the ball better. We only had 11 turnovers, so that’s pretty good. If we can stay in the 9, 10, 11 area, I’ll take that day in and day out,” Barnes said.

The victory was also recorded as win 300 for Coach Barnes’s career. It marked win no.144 at Youngstown State, but he also won 156 games while at the helm of Michigan Technological University women’s team.

The Penguins are back in action next weekend for a two-game home stint at the Beeghly Center, facing off against University of Detroit Mercy and Oakland University. Tip-off against the Titans is slated for Jan. 28 at 7 p.m.