YSU women avenge loss to Oakland

By Steve WILAJ



John Barnes didn’t want to reveal too much of what keyed Youngstown State on Wednesday.

So in explaining what changed for the Penguins in their 76-54 victory against Oakland at Beeghly Center — compared to a road loss against the Golden Grizzlies earlier in the season — the YSU head coach kept it simple.

“They really capitalized on some simple things [last game] that we tried to not let them do this time and it helped us out a lot,” Barnes said. “And it’s a whole different story when you’re on your home floor.

“But there were several little things that we were able to do that just took them out of rhythm.”

While Barnes was careful with his words, it was no secret that YSU’s defense and rebounding were vastly improved over the first meeting.

This time, the Penguins held Oakland — which scored 85 points on Jan. 24 — to 40-percent shooting. They also outrebounded the Golden Grizzlies 37-20.

“Last time they beat us on the boards, so we knew this game that if we boxed them out and outrebounded them, we’d most likely beat them,” Penguins guard Nikki Arbanas said. “It started on the defensive end. We started to get steals and just make good defensive plays that turned it over into offense.”

After a slow start in which YSU (16-7, 5-5 Horizon League) trailed by five after the first 13 minutes, Arbanas jumpstarted a 14-0 YSU run. The freshman guard scored eight points during the spurt as the Penguins turned a 19-14 deficit at the 6:49 mark into a 28-19 lead with 1:32 to play in the first half.

Arbanas finished with 11 points, while senior forward Heidi Schlegel paced YSU with 20. Kelsea Newman also added 13 points and Latisha Walker had 10.

“We did some good things offensively as far as getting the ball inside and taking it to the basket,” Barnes said. “And we shot 50 percent from 3 in the second half and that makes things a lot easier.”

Leading 37-32 early in the second half, the Penguins separated themselves from the Golden Grizzlies (10-13, 4-6) with a 14-5 run to take a 51-37 lead. The stretch — which lasted about six minutes — included 3’s by Newman, Kelley Wright and Jenna Hirsch as well as an and-one layup from Morgan Olson.

“In the second half we just started to pick things up,” Arbanas said. “We ran the floor really well and made good decisions.”

Schlegel’s 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting marked the eighth straight game she’s scored at least 15 points.

Speaking of good decisions, Barnes said he made one regarding his senior captain prior to the game.

“I said to the staff that we’re putting it on her shoulders,” he said. “Whatever happens, we’re going to her and we’ll live with it because she’s put in the most time and work. It worked out pretty well [tonight].”

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