YSU women near the end of tough Horizon League slate
By Dan Hiner
The Youngstown women’s basketball team is nearing the end of a murderer’s row. The Penguins lost four straight after playing the top four teams in the Horizon League standings.
The Penguins lost to IUPUI in the Beeghly Center on Jan. 6 and proceeded to lose to Green Bay, Milwaukee and Wright State on the road.
YSU (6-12, 2-5) —sitting in eighth place in the League— will conclude its road test at fifth place Cleveland State on Saturday.
“You play Green Bay, IUPUI, Milwaukee and Wright State — the top four teams — we just played them back-to-back-to-back-to-back,” YSU coach John Barnes said. “We knew it was gonna be a rough trip. And the thing is Cleveland State’s in that mix in the top half of the conference too. They’re playing well and it’s at their place. This is gonna be another challenge.”
Barnes and the Penguins are finally able to relax before playing the Vikings in Cleveland. Barnes hopes the time off will allow the players to relax and regroup. The Penguins played three games in five days, but have four off days before returning to action.
“It’s nice to sleep in our own beds. That was a big one,” Barnes said. “It was a long trip, but we’re able to rest now and get the kids back in school and in their routines and able to practice some of the fundamental stuff that you get away from when you’re on the road.”
Cleveland State will provide another road test for the Penguins. The Vikings feature two of the top players in the conference in 2017 All-Horizon League performers Ashanti Abshaw and Khayla Livingston.
Livingston is sixth in the conference in scoring with 15.1 points per game while Abshaw is second, averaging with 19.5.
Abshaw has made an impact on both ends of the court. The Horizon League Player of the Year candidate leads the conference with 2.8 steals per game.
“They’re very good,” Barnes said. “Those two players are outstanding. Abshaw is going to be up for Player of the Year in the league. And Livingston’s making a case for first-team all league. [Livingston] had seven or eight 3s yesterday against Northern Kentucky. Without her, they don’t win the game. Or her having an average game, they don’t win the game. She’s really playing well right now.”
Barnes said the Penguins will need to defend Livingston and Abshaw “collectively.”
Barnes will also game plan around Cleveland State forward Olivia Voskuhl, who is having the best statistical season of her career. Voskuhl enters the game averaging 12.6 points and 6.9 rebounds.
“That’s why they have 12 wins now. It’s gonna be a challenge to say the least,” Barnes said.
Despite losing four straight games, Barnes has seen progress with his team. He said the players are entering this week with a positive attitude and are focusing on the team’s development.
“We’re a second away from beating one of the top four teams in the league on the road,” Barnes said. We got Green Bay, they’re ranked No. 23 in the country right now, to a five-point game with under four minutes to go. We feel like we’re making progress. Just the results in the win/loss column are not there.
“I don’t think by any means we’re down. I think they’ll be excited to get back on the court again.”