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YSU women gearing up for big weekend

Penguins get set to host Milwaukee and Green Bay after going undefeated in November

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes The Youngstown State women’s basketball team celebrates following their 57-55 victory over Akron earlier this season which was their first contest in front of their home fans since the winter of 2020.

YOUNGSTOWN — After a 5-0 November, the Youngstown State women’s basketball team is set to put that undefeated mark to the test.

The Penguins will embark on their first Horizon League homestand of the season, as Milwaukee and Green Bay visit the Beeghly Center tonight and Saturday afternoon, respectively.

UWM was selected second in the Horizon League preseason poll, while Green Bay was slotted third and received a first-place vote.

In addition, each of the two features a win over a Power 5 program, as UWM (3-4, 2-0) toppled Wisconsin last week while Green Bay (3-3, 1-1) knocked off Oklahoma State.

As such, YSU (5-0, 2-0) head coach John Barnes acknowledged, “We have a big week in front of us.”

To date, the Penguins have taken a committee approach with a lot of balanced scoring, though forward Lilly Ritz has led the charge the past three games. Ritz has scored at least 20 points in each of YSU’s last three contests and is third in the league in both scoring average (18.4 ppg) and rebounding (8.4 rpg).

Three other Penguins are averaging in double figures, as Chelsea Olson is scoring 11.8 points per game, Malia Magestro is averaging 11.3 points and Paige Shy has 10.6 points per game.

Magestro missed YSU’s first two Horizon League contests at Oakland and Detroit Mercy with an ankle sprain, but returned to some limited action — about 12 minutes of game time — against Long Island last Friday.

“We’re getting her back hopefully into full-go here before too much longer,” Barnes said of Magestro.

Of the team, he said, “I think we’re playing hard. We haven’t necessarily played really good basketball yet. I think we’re still trying to get to know each other and come together, but we play very hard. We’re pretty stingy on the defensive end of the ball, which I think is different than in past years.”

YSU ranks fifth in the league in scoring defense at 60.2 points allowed per game.

In Milwaukee, the Penguins are getting a team that began the season 0-3 before rattling off three consecutive victories. The Panthers dropped their last contest, a 69-50 decision to Northern Illinois.

UWM is paced by standout Megan Walstad, a Preseason All-Horizon League First Team selection who leads the teams in scoring (15.7 ppg), rebounding (8.3 rpg) and playing time (34.1 mpg).

“She’s strong and athletic, has great hands (and is a) great finisher,” Barnes said of the 6-foot-2 forward. “She can rebound, she runs the floor. She’s a very good team player; she passes when she’s not open. I just think she’s a really good team player. … It’ll be a great test for Lilly to see where she’s at.”

Barnes also is wary of Emma Wittmershaus, a 6-foot-3 forward that UWM has paired with Walstad down low to date. She’s scoring 7.4 points and grabbing 4.8 rebounds per game.

“They have been (starting two forwards). I don’t know if they will against us, but that (tandem) presents a challenge.”

Guards Sydney Staver, McKaela Schmelzer and Miquela Santoro are averaging 9.4, 9.1 and 7.6 points per game, respectively, in the backcourt.

The Panthers have held serve with their opponents relatively evenly thus far, though they’ve been outscored 116-82 in second quarters to date. Milwaukee has won the last three matchups with YSU. Tipoff is slated for 7 o’clock this evening.

Green Bay, meanwhile, has had an up-and-down start to the year. The Phoenix had won back-to-back games, including the victory over Oklahoma State, before dropping their last contest against SMU to return to .500.

Green Bay ranks ninth in the conference in scoring (58.3 ppg) but is up at fourth in defense (59.8 ppg allowed).

Senior guard Meghan Pingel was a Preseason Horizon League Second Team selection and is scoring 8.2 points per game. She also dishes out just under five assists per contest.

Hailey Oskey, a junior guard, leads the team in scoring at 10.8 points per game. She makes her mark at the free throw line, where her percentage of .870 (20-of-23 on the year) ranks third in the conference.

Tipoff on Saturday is set for 1 p.m.

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