The Penguins and Ramblers square off in the women's tournament Thursday at 8:30 p.m. in Chicago.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State women's basketball coach Ed DiGregorio just wished he knew what YSU team will show up Thursday night when the Penguins open Horizon League tournament play in Chicago.
The Penguins, who finished the regular season 12-15 and 8-8 in the Horizon League, are the No. 5 seed and will play tournament host Loyola of Chicago, the No. 4 seed Thursday at 8:30 p.m.
DiGregorio has been at a loss for words when he talks about his team's play this season.
"If I knew before the game which team was going to show up, I'd be a genius," he said. "Hopefully, it will be the team that played Sunday against Wright State."
Good show: The Penguins are coming off an 87-66 victory over Wright State on Sunday. DiGregorio said the team's first half was as good as the Penguins have played all season.
"In the first half against Wright State, we could have played with anybody in the country," he added. "The second half we played them even and ended up with a big win."
But DiGregorio knows the Penguins have been inconsistent all season. The fact that they've never won more than two games in a row proves that.
"Sometimes it's just like they're not even out there, and I don't know how to figure it out," the coach said. "Sunday, we didn't do anything differently than we do before every game, but they came to play and play they did."
Close last time: The Penguins have played Loyola of Chicago twice this season and lost both times. However, the game at Beeghly Center ended 58-57 when the Ramblers' Beth Dilling made two free throws with no time showing on the clock for the victory.
The Ramblers defeated the Penguins 64-57 in their first meeting in Chicago.
"Loyola has a lot of talent, good size and they are playing on their home floor," DiGregorio said. "Our kids really feel good about themselves coming into this game.
"I've always felt that all tournament games should be played on neutral floors, but that's not the case here."
Horner ailing: To add to DiGregorio's problems, 6-2 senior center Jen Horner was down Tuesday with a 101-degree fever, and the Penguins are hopeful that she'll be okay by Thursday night.
YSU is led by sophomore forward Heather Harris of Philo, who is averaging 14.3 points per game. Freshman Jen Perugini, who is a candidate for Horizon League's Newcomer of the Year, which will be announced later today, is averaging 10.4 points and a league-leading 9.1 rebounds.
Horner is the third Penguin to average in double figures with a 10.1 mark and 6.7 rebounds.
Rounding out the starting lineup is 5-5 junior guard Maggie Johnston (9.3 points and 3.5 assists) and sophomore guard Cathy Hanek, an Ursuline High product, who averages 6.6 points.
Off the bench will be 5-8 senior Monica Vicarel of Cardinal Mooney (2.3 points), 6-0 freshman Barbora Fabianova of Kennedy Catholic (6.4 points) and 6-3 freshman Tara Fleming (3.4 points).
Loyola's leaders: The Ramblers, who finished at 14-13, 8-8 Horizon, are led by 5-7 junior guard Tracy Hoffman (10.6 points and 4.4 assists), 6-1 senior center Lauren Sirus (9.9 points, 5.7 rebounds), 6-0 sophomore Maggie Toczylowski (8.4 points, 6.4 rebounds), 5-8 freshman Ciara Henderson (9.0 points) and 5-10 senior Dilling (7.2 points).
The tournament gets underway tonight with Wright State (6-21) playing Butler (2-25) in the play-in game between the Nos. 8 and 9 seeds.
Thursday's action begins at 2 p.m. with No. 2 seed Wisconsin-Milwaukee (20-7) meeting No. 7 seed Illinois-Chicago (14-14). The 4 p.m. match-up will include No. 3 Detroit (14-13) against No. 6 Cleveland State (13-14), and at 6:30 the No. 1 seed Wisconsin-Green Bay (21-6) meets the winner of the Wright State-Butler contest.
The semifinals will be held Friday and the tournament championship game is set for Sunday at 3 p.m.