Youngstown State drops 5th straight
YOUNGSTOWN — From the opening tip, Youngstown State looked discombobulated, disconnected and disjointed.
Still, the Penguins were able to keep things close through most of the first half, but Detroit Mercy eventually started pulling away, going on to win 59-50 on Thursday night in both teams’ Horizon League opener.
It was YSU’s fifth straight loss, as the Penguins fell to 2-5 (0-1) to start the season.
“We’re trying to get our offense to catch up with our defense,” acting head coach John Nicolais said. “We spent the days (after) coming back from Vegas working on that and felt like we got ourselves better looks tonight. But we’re not going to beat anybody shooting 17% from three with the volume of shots that we are taking out there, so we’ve gotta find a way to be better.”
More than half of YSU’s total shots came from beyond the arc. As the Penguins fell further and further behind, they tried to use the three ball to claw their way back, but the shots just wouldn’t fall.
YSU had 34 attempts from deep against the Titans, but only six found the bottom of the net. Just one of those makes came after halftime.
“I’m OK with that number (of threes),” Nicolais said. “I felt like it presented itself with the offense, where we were getting decent looks there because we weren’t getting a lot of offensive firepower early in the game.”
Emily Saunders led the Penguins with 12 points and was the lone YSU player in double figures. Malia Magestro and Abby Liber each finished with nine.
“Later on, we were able to get the inside part of the offense going, and that freed up some extra shots around the perimeter,” Nicolais said. “But we were getting good looks, and they certainly didn’t bounce our way (Thursday).”
Several scoring droughts put the Penguins in deeper and deeper holes.
After taking a 10-7 lead in the first quarter, YSU went four minutes without scoring a point. Then the Penguins went to one of their small-ball lineups, which sparked a 7-0 run.
But after YSU took a 22-21 lead midway through the second quarter, its last of the game, Detroit Mercy finished out the half on an 11-3 run.
The Titans opened the second half on a 9-4 run and didn’t look back, as YSU went on another nearly four-minute scoring drought midway through the third quarter.
“I would say a little bit of it is moving multiple people in at different positions,” Nicolais said. “So there could be a little bit of confusion there as far as where they need to be, but that’s on us, and hopefully we can clean that up.”
Even when shots aren’t dropping, YSU prides itself on its hustle, effort and ability to get to loose balls. The Penguins got 10 steals, as Detroit Mercy turned the ball over 18 times, but YSU wasn’t able to turn those extra possessions into points.
As a result, despite its recent slide, YSU isn’t hitting the panic button just yet. It’s still early in the season, and the Penguins are still optimistic going forward.
“Our effort is there always — we’re always diving on the ground,” Magestro said. “One thing specifically that we hold ourselves accountable for is getting more 50/50 balls than other teams that we play, and I know for sure that we got more of those today. But just a couple things on offense aren’t clicking. I think it’s good for this to be happening now in the season rather than the end, so I think once the shots are falling, we’re going to look like a different team.”
After a tough stretch, YSU will look to get back in the win column on Sunday, as the Penguins venture across the OH/PA border to face Robert Morris.