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Poor shooting sinks Youngstown State at Akron, 61-44

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Youngstown State forward Lilly Ritz chases down Akron’s Rachel Martindale for a loose ball during the second half of YSU’s 61-44 loss to the Zips. Ritz had 23 points.

AKRON — After a first quarter of dominance for Youngstown State, the wheels came off the wagon.

In a game it led by 16 after the first quarter, YSU suffered its second loss of the season, a 61-44 decision at Akron on Friday night. The Penguins (1-2) shot just 19-of-61 from the field, and 1-for-20 from 3-point range.

“We have good shooters, but (shots) just aren’t falling right now,” said YSU coach John Barnes. “I think all three games we really haven’t shot it very well. So 1-for-20 tonight, you almost have to try to do that. … But it’s just hard to maintain your defensive and offensive intensity if the shots aren’t falling. So our goal is to get back in the gym, get more shots up, keep shooting, see them fall and hopefully we start putting those made shots into game situations.”

YSU began with a 20-3 run that gave the Penguins a 20-6 lead after the first quarter. During that span, Akron (2-1), which had shot 50 percent or better in each of its prior two matchups, began just 2-of-14.

The Penguins were especially dominant in the post, as Lilly Ritz scored 10 of her game-high 23 points in the frame, and Emily Saunders added three points. Meanwhile, YSU picked up three points from Paige Shy and two each from Malia Magestro and Megan Callahan.

Ritz finished the game with nine rebounds, as well.

From there, however, the Zips adjusted. Akron threw both man-to-man and zone defenses at YSU and defended the post much better, either denying an entry pass or quickly double- or triple-teaming Saunders and Ritz once they had possession.

Meanwhile, with the forwards locked down, YSU’s guards had a miserable night from the floor. Aside from Ritz’s 11-of-16 night, the Penguins shot just 8-for-45.

Malia Magestro had six points for YSU, while Emily Saunders had five.

“It’s harder when we’re not hitting shots because they can obviously sink in (defensively to double-team forwards),” Ritz said. “We’re a completely different team when we’re not hitting (shots), so I think that was definitely the key factor.”

And in a total flip of the script, Akron’s offense roared back from its sluggish start as YSU’s cratered. The Zips went on a 20-4 spurt during the second quarter and at one point in the second half had it extended to a 38-8 run.

Akron finished 21-of-49 (42.9 percent) from the floor, but went 19-of-35 after that tough first quarter. Dominique Camp led the Zips with 15 points, while Layne Ferrell added 13 points.

After taking the lead early in the third quarter, Akron held onto it for good.

“I think as their momentum went up, ours went down and it was downhill from there,” Ritz said.

Barnes added, “I thought (Akron was) really tough tonight, but I thought we had some mental mistakes defensively that cost us probably 15 to 20 points. When you’re not making shots, you can’t make a bunch of mental mistakes on defense, and that’s the stuff we’re trying to work on.”

In addition to the poor shooting, YSU also struggled with turnovers for the second straight game. After committing 26 giveaways at Penn State on Tuesday, the Penguins had 19 at Akron.

The Zips scored 12 points off YSU’s turnovers and also had 11 points in transition. As a team, YSU had just seven assists to its 19 turnovers, while Akron had 14 assists to its 16 turnovers.

“Some of it’s (defensive) pressure, but a lot of it is just not seeing the defense and not reading it — kind of more IQ stuff,” Barnes said. “I thought Penn State put a lot of pressure, and they were really long and athletic. But a lot of turnovers today were just mental errors and we can’t have that, especially when we’re not shooting the ball well. If you’re not shooting well, you better take care of the ball and you better have really good defensive possessions.”

YSU continues its nonconference slate Tuesday at Western Michigan.

“We’re just trying to get better,” Barnes said. “It’s not going to be fixed for Western Michigan, but hopefully we can take a step forward.”

jwhetzel@tribtoday.com

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