By Brian Yauger
The Youngstown State University women’s basketball team heads on the road down south for a big two-game trip against Northern Kentucky University and Wright State University.
With the regular season conference title in play, it’s safe to call these games “must wins.” The Penguins took down both Northern Kentucky and Wright State in their prior meetings at Beeghly Center, but that doesn’t mean the team has two free wins on the horizon.
“Northern Kentucky was 14 points ahead of us in the second half, so we had to fight and claw just to come out with a win there,” Penguins coach John Barnes said. “We have to come extremely focused, sharp and play our best basketball.”
Wright State is on top of the Horizon League with only two losses, one of which was an 83-68 beating by the Penguins. Barnes is coming in to the game like the win never happened.
“We probably played one of our best games against Wright State at home,” Barnes said. “I think they’re very good on their home floor, very good in general. They only have two losses in the conference, so obviously they’re good. We’re just going to approach it like we have all year. I think that’s our best way to do it and try to learn about each team as much as we can before the game and execute the game plan.”
This past weekend was huge for the Penguins as they took down two teams that defeated them earlier in the year.
First up was the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, the 20-time reigning Horizon League regular season conference champions. The Penguins would come out on top in that one 70-59.
Chelsea Olson dominated, finishing just four assists shy of a triple-double. Olson scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. She said the key to the game was aggression and she delivered it in spades.
“We had to be aggressive on the offensive side,” Olson said after the game. “We knew our defense was going to be able to win the game. It was just our offense, we needed our offense to be more aggressive to win this game.”
Closing the weekend was a win over the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. YSU completed the two game “revenge tour” and took down the Panthers 67-47.
“We had a different mindset today against this team,” senior Alison Smolinski said. “We kind of got popped in the mouth by them at their place, so we wanted to do the same thing back to them today and we did a heck of a job.”
Rebounding played key for the Penguins in the win. McKenah Peters led the team bringing down nine boards and the duo of Olson and Sarah Cash each brought down seven.
“[Rebounding] was one of our keys,” Barnes said after the game. “We kind of let them get too many offensive boards the first time around. Normally, we’re second in the league in rebounding, like three-tenths of a point behind first place in terms of rebounding margin. We knew we had to get back on that track here at home.”
If students and community members want a chance to see YSU take the court this season, there’s still one more opportunity. Winning this past Sunday against the Milwaukee clinched a home game in the Horizon League tournament for the Penguins.
The Penguins take on the Norse Friday at 7 p.m. then head up the road to Dayton to take on Wright State at 2 p.m. on Sunday.