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Ed Puskas: Smolinski on target for Penguins

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Watch Alison Smolinski step into a 3-pointer and it is difficult to imagine a time when her shot was ugly.

But the Youngstown State senior says there was just such a time.

“When I was younger, I shot in the backyard with my Dad over and over and over again,” Smolinski said. “My shot started pretty bad, actually. I’ve got to give credit to my Dad and then my AAU coach, Kevin McNamara. And we’ve had great coaches here, too.”

Smolinski has been chasing YSU’s career record for 3-pointers all season and she got there in the fourth quarter of a 70-52 win over IUPUI on Saturday at Beeghly Center.

With former teammate Nikki Arbanas — who held the record of 209 3-pointers — watching in the stands at Beeghly Center, Smolinski got close with three long-range shots in the second quarter as the Penguins (12-3, 4-0 Horizon League) began to take control.

The 3-pointers tend to come in bunches for Smolinski, who then hit three more in the fourth quarter. Her 209th 3-pointer — to tie Arbanas — came with 6:55 to play on an assist from Melinda Trimmer.

Trimmer, a West Branch graduate, found Smolinski open on the right baseline less than two minutes later for No. 210 and the record.

Smolinski didn’t know she had made history until Penguins head coach John Barnes took a timeout and her teammates rushed the floor.

There is a reason Smolinski didn’t know.

“Mentally, I sometimes just overthink a lot,” she said. “That’s why I can’t think about it.”

Smolinski’s teammates have that covered.

“Mary [Dunn] is always the first one to come up to me and jump on me,” Smolinski said. “She’s like, ‘Do you hear Nikki Arbanas up there?’ I’m like, ‘Mary, we’re playing a game!’”

The timeout gave the Penguins — and a vocal crowd of 1,343 — a chance to celebrate Smolinski’s accomplishment, which was noted on YSU’s videoboard.

“It was a pretty special feeling,” she said.

Smolinski finished with a game-high 22 points in 37 minutes. She was 8 of 15 from the floor, including 6 of 8 from 3-point range.

IUPUI guard Sydney Hall chased Smolinski for 28 of those 37 minutes.

“[No.] 42 did a really good job,” Smolinski said. “She was on me the whole game.”

Sixth-year YSU head coach John Barnes agreed.

“I though Al played a great game,” Barnes said. “They were all over her. They were bumping her and grabbing her, which is part of the game. They’re trying to do whatever they can to take her out of the game. She didn’t let that affect her.

“If she had any space at all, she was knocking it down.”

Dunn added with 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting and had seven rebounds and Lordstown graduate Sarah Cash had 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting.

Guards Chelsea Olson (11 rebounds) and Trimmer (eight assists, six rebounds) contributed in other ways.

YSU has won five in a row and eight of its last nine.

“This was probably our strongest game yet,” Smolinski said.

YSU is on to Milwaukee and Green Bay next week. Barnes said both are talented, strong teams.

“It’s a long season,” he said. “I think it was a good win for us. ... We’re going to enjoy this one and then get back to work and prepare like we have been and hopefully find a way to get one more point and beat Milwaukee.”

Write Vindicator Sports Editor Ed Puskas at epuskas@vindy.com and follow him on Twitter, @EdPuskas_Vindy.