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Shorthanded Penguins lose at CSU

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Gabby Lupardus of YSU drives inside while being guarded by Jade Ely of Cleveland State on Friday at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland.

CLEVELAND — Youngstown State had a tough task ahead of them going into Friday night’s contest against Cleveland State. The Penguins had to go into the Wolstein Center and square off against one of the better teams in the Horizon League, as Cleveland State came into the game with an overall record of 12-3.

Things didn’t get easier for YSU after McKenah Peters and Taylor Petit were ruled out due to injuries suffered on the Penguins’ last road trip. Those injuries were among of slew of others that have plagued the team so far this season.

In the end, CSU used a strong fourth quarter to push past a depleted YSU team by a final score of 60-52.

Following the game, YSU coach John Barnes said his team left it out on the court.

“I thought we were ready to play, I mean we came out and played extremely hard,” he said. “We took a 10-0 lead, I think just so many minutes, we get worn out down the stretch.

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes YSU's Jen Wendler, right, prepares to take a shot in the paint on Nadia Dumas of CSU during the second quarter. Wendler tied her career-high with 13 points, along with a career-high nine rebounds in the 60-52 loss to Cleveland State.

“Chelsea (Olson) played 39 minutes, Jen (Wendler) played 36 minutes, Nana (Ny’Dajah Jackson) played 32 minutes,” he said. “I mean those are a lot of minutes and we have a lot of freshmen playing 30-some minutes, high 20s. It’s just hard to win playing freshmen that many minutes in this league, especially on the road.”

Of the eight healthy players YSU had active for the game, four were freshmen.

One of those was Wendler, who tied her career best with 13 points, along with a career-high nine rebounds. She has stepped in and logged a lot of playing time this season due to the absence of the injured Mary Dunn and Emma VanZanten.

“I think I’ve definitely learned a lot,” Wendler said. “Emma and Mary have been there helping me, and so is Coach Barnes, he’s my position coach.

“I just think it’s really been a big growth experience for me that I wouldn’t have had normally.”

YSU took a 15-5 lead into the second quarter, but Cleveland State (13-3, 3-2) rallied to take the lead after Mariah White buried a pair of free throws late in the first half to give the Vikings a 20-18 edge.

Trailing 27-22 at halftime, YSU had a big third quarter and outscored CSU, 26-12, thanks in big part to freshman Maddie Schires, who had all 11 of her points in the quarter.

With a 48-39 lead heading into the final 10 minutes of play, YSU was shut down and limited to only four points in the fourth quarter.

“I think we kind of just played down to them, and we just got in our heads and let the mental errors add up, and it didn’t go our way,” Wendler said.

YSU shot 20-for-62 from the field for 32.3 percent shooting.

Redshirt freshman Gabby Lupardus had a career-high nine points, and Olson had seven points and 12 rebounds.

Barnes has had to coach around several injuries so far this season, but said his underclassmen are earning valuable playing time.

“The good thing is all these young kids that maybe wouldn’t be getting a lot of minutes are playing a ton of minutes right now and getting a ton of experience.

“It was nice earlier because we were winning, but when McKenah (Peters) and Taylor Petit went out, now it’s a little tougher because yes, they’re getting that experience, but we’re not winning games and not winning is never good. But I do think they’re getting a lot of experience.”

YSU (9-7, 2-3) has lost three straight, but Wendler said that adversity could help the team grow.

“I think it’s definitely making us grow a lot closer,” she said. “And we’re realizing what we’re capable of even with our best players out. I think we’re just growing together as a team even more, and it’s definitely going to help us in the long run and the years to come.”

The Penguins continue their five-game stretch on the road with a visit to Rochester, Michigan, next Thursday where they’ll face off against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies (7-8, 2-2) with tip-off set for 7 p.m.

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