By Joe Catullo Jr.
Disappointing groans, angry echoes and the referees’ whistles sounded throughout Beeghly Center in the second half of Youngstown State’s game Saturday against Bucknell.
Holding on to a double-digit advantage, the Penguins were searching for a way to get the crowd and their bench fired up against the Bison’s comeback attempt. Shar’Rae Davis provided the spark with 3:48 remaining. Davis found a hole from the top of the 3-point line to the paint with three seconds on the shot clock. Karen Flagg saw Davis cut, dished her the ball and Davis scooped it in while also bashing her body on the court, giving herself an and-1 chance.
The noise quickly changed to cheers, celebration and relief as the game went into a media timeout. YSU increased its energy and intensity on the way to a 69-51 victory, two elements that were lost earlier in the game and during team practices.
“I thought at times today we looked very complacent, which is very scary as a coach,” YSU head coach Bob Boldon said. “I thought at times we were very aggressive, took passes away, getting steals in transition. But at times we went through some things where we looked very lethargic.”
The Penguins (9-3) led by no less than eight in the second half and held an eight-point lead at halftime, but Flagg said it felt closer.
“We just stayed with it, but the first half we played with no energy,” she said. “We played with energy like within the first three minutes, but then we eventually gave up a little bit.”
YSU began the game hitting its first four 3-point field goals and fell in love with the long-range shots, Boldon said.
“One, we became very stagnant offensively; we really weren’t moving very much,” Boldon said. “And two, we weren’t really attacking the rim. We made a number of corrections at halftime, and one of them was to be more aggressive getting the ball to the rim.”
Flagg said Boldon told Brandi Brown and Heidi Schlegel to go to work. Brown finished with 20 points (13 in the second half) and five rebounds while Schlegel tallied eight points.
Flagg finished with a career-high 12 points and added five assists to her game but said it was not her best performance.
“I feel like I need to be consistent the whole game,” Flagg said. “I don’t know what I’m doing, but I feel like I need to get better at it.”
Before the Penguins travel to face Virginia Commonwealth University on Thursday, Boldon said his team must find a way to crank up the intensity.
“I didn’t think our intensity in practice or level of fitness is where it needed to be, and I thought it showed a little bit tonight,” Boldon said. “I don’t know if everybody [had] some sort of a Christmas hangover or everybody was happy celebrating Christmas, the birth of Christ which is a phenomenal thing, but we’ve got to be able to focus on our task at hand.”