By Joe Scalzo
After two losses last week cost Youngstown State a chance at the Horizon League’s regular-season title, senior guard Liz Hornberger channeled her inner Don Draper.
As the “Mad Men” character once said, “If you don’t like what is being said, then change the conversation.”
“After non-conference, we were [4-9], so we were supposed to be in last place at this point,” Hornberger said. “We have a chance to be second.”
The Penguins (13-14, 9-5 Horizon) are third in the league standings behind Green Bay (18-8, 11-3) and Wright State (21-8, 10-4), who will play YSU tonight at Beeghly Center.
If YSU wins and beats Cleveland State on Saturday, it will clinch the tournament’s second seed, which includes a first-round bye and a second-round home game.
“First place right now is out the window, and after these next two games first place is back on the line,” Hornberger said. “You win the tournament, you’re in first place.
“Until the next two games are over, we’re focused on beating those teams. After that, first place is back up for grabs for me.”
The Penguins lost at Cleveland State (84-80) and Wright State (93-81) in early February. Two wins would mean YSU has defeated every Horizon League team this season, something the Penguins have never done since joining the conference in 2001-02.
“That’s another feather in the seniors’ caps,” YSU coach John Barnes said. “These last two games are very important for our confidence more than anything else. It’d be nice to get two wins heading into the tournament.”
Both WSU and CSU create matchup problems with the Penguins, particularly the Raiders, who have more talent than any team in the conference, Hornberger said.
“They’re really, really, really talented,” she said. “It’s going to be a really, really fun game. I’m really excited for it. I’ve been waiting to play them ever since we left Wright State.”
Saturday’s game will be the regular season finale for Hornberger, Monica Touvelle, Melissa Thompson and Karen Flagg (who joined the team last season from Daytona State College). Thompson redshirted as a freshman in 2009-10, when the Penguins went 0-30, while Hornberger and Touvelle joined the team the next fall.
“[Senior day] is a special day ever year, especially for this class,” Barnes said. “Being around a team that hadn’t won a game all year to a team that went to the WNIT [in 2013] and won a game last year, to a team that has broken all kinds of records this year and done some great things. They’re hoping for a strong finish.”