’Guins cruise past LIU, 70-55
Lilly Ritz stays hot, scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the victory
YOUNGSTOWN — Shooting just 3-of-11 from the field and having committed six turnovers, Youngstown State found itself locked in a battle with Long Island early on, leading by just one point after the first quarter Friday afternoon.
So with its offense struggling, YSU turned to its defense.
The Penguins held the visiting Sharks scoreless for more than 9 minutes of the second quarter to build a 15-point halftime lead, then grew that to as much as 27 en route to a 70-55 nonconference win at the Beeghly Center on Friday afternoon.
The win caps a perfect November for YSU (5-0).
“I think we did our job today. It wasn’t pretty, but you’re up 27, you know, at the end of the third quarter, beginning of the fourth quarter,” YSU head coach John Barnes said. “We got every player on the team (in the game) and got them some decent minutes, so that was also important.”
YSU led 11-10 after the first quarter courtesy of nine points off turnovers, many of which came from free throws.
From there, the Penguins put the clamps down. LIU (0-5) shot just 2-for-12 in the second frame, turned it over eight times and scored just five points. The Sharks went from the 9:15 mark until just 12 seconds were left in the quarter without a basket.
YSU, meanwhile, scored eight points off those turnovers, built a 30-15 lead and never looked back as its offense kicked into gear. After that 3-for-11 start from the field in the first, YSU shot 7-for-15 in the second and began to assert itself.
Barnes credited that to the Penguins attacking LIU’s pressure better.
“I think the biggest thing is just execution, setting good screens, pounding it inside. It’s just tough when a team pressures like that; it kind of takes you out of what you want to do,” Barnes said. “But if you attack it, it really leaves them susceptible, so I think we attacked a lot more.
“When they pressure hard, it’s hard to keep someone in front of you, so we were just able to get downhill, get into the paint, dump to our bigs for layups, kick for open threes. I thought we just did a better job of attacking.”
That attack once again began with Lilly Ritz. For the third consecutive game, the forward eclipsed 20 points as she poured in 20, added 10 rebounds for a double-double and also notched five steals. She was 9-for-11 from the field.
Chelsea Olson added 12 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals, while Megan Callahan and Paige Shy each added seven points.
Olson also hit a pair of milestones in the win, as she eclipsed 700 rebounds and 400 assists. She now has 705 boards and 402 helpers.
“It definitely means a lot. I don’t really sit back and look at those things yet, but it definitely means a lot. … Just trying to do everything I can for our team to win,” Olson said.
YSU also welcomed Malia Magestro back to its lineup Friday. The sharpshooting guard had missed a pair of games after spraining her ankle during practice last week.
In her return, she played sparingly off the bench, logging 12:42 of game time. She scored five points.
“It’s really been a struggle at times not having her in there. Depth is just such a big key, and she was our leading scorer when she went out,” Barnes said. “She was just rehabbing and trying to get it back as best she could. Today we weren’t really sure what we wanted to do, but we wanted to get her in there just to see how it felt and to get her in some game-type of play with a sense of urgency out there. I thought she did great for not really practicing a lot.”
Barnes noted her return comes at a good time, as the Penguins enter perhaps the biggest week of their season so far. YSU welcomes Milwaukee and Green Bay to the Beeghly Center on Thursday and Saturday, respectively, as part of a critical Horizon League homestand. Milwaukee and YSU are two of four teams presently tied atop the conference standings at 2-0, while Green Bay is just a game back at 1-1 and knocked off Oklahoma State on Friday.
Olson said the Penguins are off from practice today and Sunday to get rested up, then will hit the ground running Monday.
“The next week’s a really big week for us, and we’re playing some of the top teams in the conference in Green Bay and Milwaukee,” she said. “This week is going to be a lot harder than the past (couple weeks).”