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Penguins women to battle Vikings

The Youngstown State women’s basketball team finishes its regular season by hosting Cleveland State today and Saturday.

Two road losses last weekend could be indicators of how the Penguins might fare in the upcoming Horizon League tournament.

The games against the Vikings at the Beeghly Center both begin at 2 p.m. and both are the first game of a doubleheader that also includes the YSU men facing IUPUI. Both women’s games will be broadcast on WNIO 1390-AM and on ESPN-plus.

YSU (8-6, 8-6 Horizon) is currently seeded seventh, one spot behind Cleveland State (8-7, 7-7), in the Horizon League seedings. The seedings factor in league winning percentage, strength of schedule, weighing road wins more than home wins and number of league games played.

The top five seeds receive a bye into the quarterfinals, and the sixth through eighth seeds play a first-round home game on Feb. 25. The quarterfinals are March 2 at campus sites and the semifinals and final are scheduled March 8-9 at Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis.

It was in that city last weekend that the Penguins lost twice to IUPUI, 72-65 on Friday and 64-53 on Saturday.

“We competed really hard. We gave ourselves a chance to win both games,” YSU coach John Barnes said at his weekly news conference. “Unfortunately we didn’t come out with either one, but we were right there.

“They arguably could be undefeated in the league. They have three losses and those three losses, their point guard was out for all three of them.”

IUPUI is seeded fifth in the league, trailing Wright State, Milwaukee, Green Bay and Oakland. On the last weekend of the regular season, it’s likely that players will be looking ahead to the postseason.

“We try to focus on just winning the games, but ultimately you find yourself looking to see who you might get in the first round, second round,” Barnes said. “I think there’s a lot of shakeup that could happen this weekend. We’re just going to try to stay focused on Cleveland State.

“It’s two evenly-matched teams. They are the league team closest to us (geographically). It’s the final week of the regular season, final two conference games heading into the tournament, so you obviously want to finish strong. I’m glad we are at home.”

Cleveland State’s Mariah White leads the Horizon League in scoring (20.2) and steals (2.2) in league play.

The Penguins enter this weekend with five straight wins at Beeghly Center dating back to a 72-57 win over Oakland on Jan. 9. YSU had won eight of nine games overall before losing the two games last week.

“Our kids are fired up after the weekend at IUPUI, they’re a little disappointed with how that weekend went, so they’ll be ready to go,” Barnes said.

The coaching staff has tried to turn the disappointment into a positive.

“We had a chance to beat, arguably, the best team in the league on their floor, twice this past weekend. And literally fouls were 10-1 in the second half of the first game and they shot 23 free throws to six in the second game,” Barnes said. “There’s a huge difference in fouls and free throws and, believe me, I’m not saying it’s the referees’ fault, but that tends to even out more on your home floor or at a neutral site.”

sports@tribtoday.com

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