Youngstown State women’s basketball coach Bob Boldon got his share of compliments from the Horizon League’s coaches last season as the Penguins started to emerge from the shadow of their winless 2009-10 season.
He’s hearing the same things this year, too.
Difference is, he actually believes them this time.
“I thought before [this year] they were just nice to me because they were going to beat us,” Boldon said. “Now some of these guys seem like nice people.”
If the Penguins keep winning, they might stop being so nice.
YSU (15-5, 5-2) has won four straight to move into a tie for second in the Horizon League with Detroit, which plays the Penguins on Thursday at Beeghly Center.
The Titans (12-7, 5-2) boast the league’s best post player in 6-foot-1 sophomore forward Shareta Brown, who leads the league in scoring (22.7 points per game) and field goal percentage (59.6) and is second in rebounds (10.7).
She’s one of the finalists for Horizon League player of the year — YSU senior Brandi Brown is another strong contender — and promises to be a headache for the Penguins’ defense, which ranks second in the conference.
“It’s been the most difficult game plan to put together because she’s such a dominant player on the low block,” Boldon said of Shareta Brown. “We don’t have anybody good enough to defend her one-on-one.”
That’s not the only problem.
“They’re much bigger than us,” junior guard Liz Hornberger said. “And they’re faster than us.”
“It’s the same old story,” Boldon said, grinning. “You’ve heard that before.”
Listen to Boldon long enough and you’ll start to wonder how the Penguins beat anybody. (He’s almost incapable of spin.)
But not only is YSU winning, it’s winning decisively, scoring double-digit road wins last week against UIC and Wright State.
“The previous two years, we would go into games thinking, ‘Let’s not get blown out by 20,’” Hornberger said. “Whereas the mentality now is, ‘Let’s blow them out by 20 at their place.’”
Thursday’s game marks the midpoint of YSU’s conference schedule. The Penguins, who are off to their best start since the 1999-2000 season, are still two games behind perennial power Green Bay (17-2, 7-0) but have shown they can compete with anyone else.
“I feel like we’re a contender [for the league title],” said Hornberger, whose team lost 59-41 to Green Bay on Jan. 19 at Beeghly Center. “I would love to host the [postseason] tournament.
“We need someone else to beat them [Green Bay], but if we play the way I know we can play, I think we can get there.
“I can’t wait to play Green Bay next time.”