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YSU women top Milwaukee 58-50 to remain undefeated

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Paige Shy (right) celebrates with Chelsea Olson following a bucket Thursday evening.

YOUNGSTOWN — John Barnes said coming into the year that his Youngstown State women’s basketball team would be stingy on defense. On Thursday night, that defense delivered a critical Horizon League victory over Milwaukee, even without the services of starting forward Lilly Ritz.

YSU held the Panthers to 16-of-60 from the field, forced 16 turnovers and used a second-half surge offensively to pull away for a 58-50 win over a team picked second in the Preseason Horizon League Poll.

“There’s a long way to go (this season). I mean, it feels good because the league picked us seventh, and that obviously didn’t feel great,” Barnes said. “So every time we can match up with a team that was picked above us, it gives us some motivation to try to get the win.”

Neither team could get things going early as YSU took a 15-14 lead into halftime. To that point, the Panthers (3-5, 2-1) and Penguins (6-0, 3-0) were a combined 9-of-52 from the field.

Out of the break, however, YSU kicked into gear, outpacing the Panthers 22-11 in the third quarter to take a 37-25 lead into the final period. Milwaukee never got back to within single digits until a trey at the buzzer from Alyssa Moore.

The Penguins picked up big second halves from Paige Shy and Megan Callahan. Shy scored 12 of her game-high 16 points after halftime, while Callahan finished with 13 points to lead YSU.

The decisive run came after Milwaukee’s Megan Walstad, who paced the Panthers with 16 points, sank a fast break bucket to put Milwaukee up 23-20 with 6:40 left in the third quarter.

After that, Callahan drilled a 3 to tie the game back up, and then Malia Magestro followed with a layup to give YSU the lead for good.

Mady Aulbach and Callahan each connected on a trey to push that lead to 31-23, and then Jen Wendler added a free throw and a jumper in the paint to push the lead to 11.

“You make some shots, and now you’re feeling better and other people start making shots,” Barnes said. “We just didn’t make many shots in the first half, and then Paige and Megan heated up. … And ultimately, our defense held us through the scoring droughts. Even when we were scoring, we were doing a pretty good job on them (defensively).”

It marked the second consecutive game Milwaukee was held to 50 points, which is the second-lowest output the Panthers have mustered this year.

“I think we did a good job of knowing personnel. We knew what each person wanted to do,” Callahan said of the team’s defensive performance. “We really locked into Coach Barnes’ gameplan, and I think that really just set the tone the whole way.”

That was critical, given the Penguins were without Ritz, who was third in the conference in both rebounding and scoring average entering Thursday night. She’s out with an unspecified illness.

In her place, Wendler and Lindsey Linard split up the majority of minutes in the post. Wendler had three points and four rebounds, while Linard scored a career-high eight points and grabbed four boards.

“We really wanted this one, especially without Lilly. I think our bigs really stepped up, and I feel like our energy really turned on from the first half,” Shy said. “I feel like the defense really helped win that game for us.”

Callahan added, “I think a big thing was just trying to give confidence to the other post (players), like, ‘Hey, you’re just as good. You can get in there and play good minutes. We need you tonight.’ So we were just giving them as much confidence as we could and then letting the game flow to us.”

YSU now turns its attention to Green Bay (4-3, 2-1), which dispatched Robert Morris in Moon Township, Pa., 63-44 Thursday night. The Phoenix travel to the Beeghly Center on Saturday for a 1 p.m. game.

“They defend really well. They’re tough and well-coached,” Barnes said. “… We’re going to have our hands full and just have to do the same thing we did tonight — battle as hard as we possibly can and hope we come out one point ahead.”

jwhetzel@tribtoday.com

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