By JOE CATULLO JR.
The Youngstown State women’s basketball team knew they would need to play close to perfect to have a chance against West Virginia.
Instead, the Penguins fairly well in Saturday’s 85-58 defeat at Beeghly Center.
“I hope they realize that if we would’ve played well, we could have hung with them,” John Barnes said. “Are we going to beat them at the end? I don’t know.
“But if you make some more shots and be a little smarter defensively and take care of the ball a little better, we’re not that far off.”
The scoring began early for WVU (5-1), recording the game’s first nine points. The Penguins (1-4) bounced back quickly and cut the deficit to four at the 11:05 mark in the first half.
“To start the game, I think we came out a little timid and a little scared,” YSU’s Heidi Schlegel said. “We didn’t play as aggressive as we usually are. We started settling in and got comfortable with them. At the end of the half, we had some girls in foul trouble.”
After Karen Flagg nailed a jumper with 7:11 remaining, the Mountaineers never looked back again. WVU ended the first half on a 17-6 run and led 45-24.
The Mountaineers led by as many as 27 points in the second half. One positive Barnes took from the game was limiting Asya Bussie to two points. She entered the game leading WVU with 16.2 points per game.
“The problem is that they have good players that they bring in one after another,” Barnes said.
Bria Holmes finished with a team-high 19 points and tallied five rebounds. Christal Caldwell scored 17 points while Taylor Palmer chipped in 14.
For the Penguins, Schlegel scored a game-high 24 points and nailed 11 free throws on 13 attempts. Flagg had one of her best performances this season with 14 points, a career-high 13 rebounds and a team-high four assists.
YSU shot 30.2 percent from the field and only 18.5 beyond the 3-point line. The Penguins also committed 14 turnovers. The Mountaineers scored 22 points off of those.
“When they got turnovers, they are really good in transition,” Barnes said. “We preached for the last three days to get back and try to protect the lane. Even in doing that, they can just find ways to get in there, jump over you or jump around you.”
Although she didn’t play, sophomore Shar’Rae Davis sat near the YSU bench for the first time this season. Davis is not enrolled during the fall semester, and there is no timetable for her return.
“We’re still hoping that she can be back in school in January. That’s really all we know right now,” Barnes said.
Davis, voted onto the Horizon League All-Newcomer Team last year, averaged 9.6 points, four rebounds, 4.3 assists (third in the conference) and 1.5 steals per game last season.
The Penguins’ next game is on Wednesday against Miami at Beeghly Center.