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Women’s team happy to play

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes YSU senior McKenah Peters drives through the Wright State defense during the first half on Saturday.

YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown State women’s basketball team is excited to be back on the court after COVID-related shutdowns paused the Penguins’ season twice in the 2020 portion of the season.

They’re also relieved just to have their first weekend series under their belts.

Following a heartbreaking loss to Wright State on Friday afternoon, the Penguins didn’t have much time to dwell before the rematch with the Raiders on Saturday.

A rough second half left the Penguins walking off the court on the wrong side of a 54-39 final, as they were outscored 36-17 following intermission.

“I thought defensively, we played pretty good,” YSU coach John Barnes said. “To hold a team that high-powered to 54 is a pretty good job on that end. Ultimately, we just are struggling to score.

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes YSU freshman Nneka Obiazor (left) drives toward the hoop during the first half on a Wright State defender. She led her team with 12 points and six rebounds.

“It’s going to take some time. We want it to happen overnight, and it’s just not going to; it’s going to take a lot of time.”

YSU got off on the right foot with a 12-7 lead at the end of the first period, with freshman Nneka Obiazor scoring five of those points in her second straight start in the Penguins’ lineup. She continued to find the bottom of the net with seven points in the second quarter as the hosts led 22-18 at halftime in a low-scoring affair.

The Penguins owned a four-point lead, 28-24, midway through the third quarter when redshirt-freshman Lexi Wagner knocked down her first career 3-pointer. However, it would be all downhill from there for YSU.

With 1:47 to go before the fourth, Emani Jefferson hit a free throw to give Wright State a 31-30 edge, and the Raiders wouldn’t look back. Leading 34-30 going into the final 10 minutes of play, Wright State pieced together a 17-4 run to bury the Penguins.

The Raiders, who improved to 5-3 overall and 5-1 in the Horizon League, were just 7-for-21 from 3-point range, but YSU was cold from the floor in all areas, finishing a dreary 12-for-43 for only 27.9 percent.

Obiazor’s team-high 12 points was a bright spot for YSU, along with six rebounds.

“I think you’re getting a glimpse of what she can do,” Barnes said. “Like any freshman, it’s just a lot of learning, a lot of figuring things out. Us starting two freshmen (the other being Malia Magestro) is a little bit scary, especially not having any (nonleague) games to get ready for league play.

“This is arguably the worst opponent probably for us to start with, coming off of a lot of quarantine time, just because of how long and athletic and how much they can pressure. But it’ll definitely help us for Oakland and then UIC the following weekend. We’re trying to take the positive out of it, if we can get some shots to fall and continue to play defense like this, we’ll be in a good spot.”

Seniors Mary Dunn and Chelsea Olson added seven points apiece for YSU (0-2, 0-2).

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