Smolinski getting close to returning


Penguins hoping to get a boost

By Brian Dzenis

bdzenis@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Youngstown State is getting a mid-season boost for its women’s basketball team.

Starting guard Alison Smolinski is getting out of her walking boot and back onto the court. She has been out since the team’s Dec. 20 contest against Penn State-Beaver with a fracture in her left foot. How soon she’ll be back to full speed is still up in the air, coach John Barnes said on Monday.

“It will be a boost when she gets back,” Barnes said. “It’s all on the trainers now and we’ll see how she feels. I’m hoping she gets back as soon as possible.”

Smolinski was the Horizon League’s top three-point shooter last year with 85 makes from beyond the arc while averaging 12.5 points per game in her sophomore season.

Even though she’s appeared in 11 games for the 2017-18 season with the Penguins (8-13, 4-6), she’s the team’s second leading scorer with 9.6 points per game.

“We’re excited for the next half of the season,” said fellow starter Nikki Arbanas, who has made her own return from a concussion.

Freshman Chelsea Olson has stepped up in Smolinski’s absence, earning the Horizon League’s Freshman of the Week honors for putting up 26 points in a 66-52 win against Cleveland State on Jan. 20 and getting a double double of 16 points and 11 rebounds in last Thursday’s 54-51 win against Northern Kentucky.

YSU’s next four games are all on the road with the next two contest coming in the Detroit area against Oakland and Detroit Mercy on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.

HOME IS WHERE THE WINS ARE

Five of the men’s basketball team’s final eight games of the regular season come at the Beeghly Center, so it’s prime time for the Penguins (6-17, 4-6) to make up some ground in the Horizon League standings. They haven’t been able to do that on the road, where the team is 1-11.

“We haven’t really figured it out. We don’t have an identity on the road,” Penguins guard Cameron Morse said. “We’re trying to figure out who we are and find a way to get it done. In our next road game, we have to get it done.”

They won’t need to worry about that until Feb. 8, when the Penguins go to the University of Illinois-Chicago. The immediate task in front of them is returning NCAA tournament participant Northern Kentucky (15-7, 8-2) before facing Ursuline grad Mark Hughes and league-leading Wright State. Both games come at YSU’s home gym, where the team is 5-2.

The Norse are performing to where the were predicted to finish, second in the League. NKU also has the preseason Player of the Year Drew Robinson, who is averaging 16.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.

“In the last three years, we’ve beat them here. We’re coming in confident coming into this game,” guard Cameron Morse said. “We know what they’re going to do. I’m confident we can win that game.”

Morse has eight games to score 246 points. If he reaches it, he’ll become the third play in program history to reach 2,000 points for his career.

“I think about it personally, but I’m focusing on trying to get wins,” Morse said. “I haven’t really taken it to heart.”

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