Youngstown St. travels to Cansius to begin road trip

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Youngstown State guard Megan Callahan goes up for a layup against Long Island earlier this season.

YOUNGSTOWN — It has all the makings of a trap game, but count John Barnes among those who think Youngstown State will be focused when the Penguins visit Canisius today for a 7 p.m. non-conference game.

“I don’t think we’ve had an easy game yet this year, no matter who we’re playing,” Barnes noted. “So we’ve been really focused on Canisius and trying to get ready for them.”

The Golden Griffins are off to a 2-5 start and have lost each of their last two games, a 57-43 decision against Robert Morris on Nov. 27 and then a 69-60 loss to Duquesne a week ago.

YSU, meanwhile, is 7-0 for the third time in program history and are coming off an impressive homestand sweep of Horizon League foes Milwaukee and Green Bay.

And, the Penguins certainly have a game to look forward to after Canisius, as they travel to State College, Pa., to take on the Big Ten Conference’s Penn State Nittany Lions.

But, as Barnes mentioned, it’s all hands on deck for the team’s trip to Buffalo first.

“They got a heck of a guard and some good shooters around her, and a couple strong post players,” Barnes said. “(We’re) on the road which makes it tougher, so we’re doing everything we can to get ready for them.”

The aforementioned guard Barnes is wary of is Dani Haskell, a Franklinville, N.Y., product who scored 3,227 points during her high school career — the second-most in New York state history — and is averaging 15.6 points per game as a sophomore.

“She can really shoot it. She’s very explosive, she’s got great handles and finishes well at the rim. She can create contact where she goes to the free throw line,” Barnes said. “She’s really going to be a problem, so we’ve done a lot of work in practice on how we’re going to try to contain her as much as we can and not have some of the other players beat us.”

Fellow guard Erika Joseph scores 10.4 points per game, and each of the two grabs just over four rebounds per game.

YSU, meanwhile, is likely still going to be without the services of Lilly Ritz, who missed the Milwaukee and Green Bay games.

In her absence, Barnes leaned on Lindsey Linard and Jen Wendler in the post, though it was the Penguins’ backcourt that filled most of the scoring void.

Megean Callahan scored 13 against Milwaukee and a career-high 20 against Green Bay, while Malia Magestro came off the bench and sank five 3-pointers against the Phoenix as part of a 15-point day.

“The biggest thing was just having our guards be more aggressive shooting the basketball,” Barnes said of adjusting to not having Ritz in the lineup. “When you have an 18-point, 60-whatever perfect field goal shooter inside, you like to get her the ball and that’s a focus. It will be when she returns, but when she’s not in there, you have some new post players that don’t have the experience that she does, and your guards have to be more aggressive in hunting their shots.”

Penn State, meanwhile, enters its Thursday night contest with Rutgers at 4-5 and as losers of four straight games, including an 81-74 defeat against Kent State.

Makenna Marisa leads the Lions with 21.3 points per game, while Ali Brigham averages 12.4. PSU has turned the ball over more than 20 times in each of its past two defeats, but is averaging 74.9 points per game as a team.

Barnes said an assistant coach has been scouting Penn State for the past week, “So we’ll be ready in terms of that.”

But, he noted, “We’re focused on Canisius, and hopefully we can find a way to get that one, and then we’ll refocus on Penn State.”


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