The Penguins have improved behind the leadership of the senior standout.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The countdown has begun for Jen Perugini.
The Youngstown State women's basketball standout is entering the home stretch of her final season playing at the Beeghly Center.
The 6-foot-2 forward from Sault Saint Marie, Ont. will play in one of her few remaining home games today as YSU hosts Horizon League leader UW-Green Bay at 1 p.m.
Twelve regular-season games and the league tournament remain of what is perhaps one of the best careers in the history of Penguins basketball.
"It is amazing," said Perugini, reflecting on her time at YSU. "It feels like it went by so quickly. It is exciting and it is sad at the same time."
Perugini ranks 15th in scoring, with 1,032 points, and fifth in rebounding, with 773, in Penguins history. If she maintains her current 14.6 ppg and 10.4 rpg averages for the remainder of the regular season, Perugini will finish her career 11th in scoring and fourth in rebounding.
But second-year YSU coach Tisha Hill said it is more than just numbers that make Perugini special.
"She is having a phenomenal year in every very aspect of her game, on and off the court," Hill said. "Her confidence level is right where it needs to be. She gives us huge leadership and tries to make everyone better. [And] there is not a practice she hasn't come to work out."
The entire team, including Perugini, struggled last season learning Hill's system, finishing 4-24, 2-14 in the Horizon League.
Such is not the case this season. Behind the leadership of Perugini and four other seniors, the Penguins are 7-8, 2-3 in the Horizon.
"Last year we all came in as freshmen," said Perugini. "Over the summer we worked extremely hard and played together [all the time].
"Obviously, no coaches were there to help us, but that was the key. We are now more comfortable with each other."
That comfort is reflected on the court.
During Wednesday's win over Loyola of Chicago, the team almost let a 16-point second-half lead slip away.
But the Penguins held on for a thrilling 62-55 victory to snap a four-game losing streak and pick up their first win against the Ramblers in eight tries.
Perugini had a game-high 18 points and fellow senior Tara Fleming recorded her first career double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Perugini and Fleming are team co-captains along with Barb Fabianova and Cathy Hanek.
"[We have] four senior co-captains," said Hill. "That leadership is hard to replace and we are going to ride it until it is over. Overall I'm very pleased."
UW-Green Bay, which received seven votes in the latest Associated Press poll, enters today's game with a seven-game winning streak. The Phoenix (13-2, 5-0) also have won six consecutive league titles and are 11-0 all time against the Penguins.
"We are really excited about this game," said Perugini. "If we just come out to play, I think we can do well."
Added Hill, "This league is crazy. We know anything can happen. The challenge is to continue playing consistent defense."