By Dan Hiner
For the third time this season, the Youngstown State University women’s basketball team’s shooting has gone into a slump. Leading 44-41 over Robert Morris University with just 4:14 remaining in the fourth quarter, YSU was trying to maintain the lead and close out the win at home.
After a layup by freshman guard Alison Smolinski extended the Penguin lead to 46-41, YSU forward Sarah Cash decided to take control of the fourth quarter. Cash scored the Penguins’ final nine points and helped close out Tuesday night’s game.
“I just try to do whatever it takes to help the team win, and if that means to step up in the fourth quarter, than that’s what I’ll do,” Cash said.
Cash finished with a career-high 20 points to go along with four rebounds.
“She’s really established herself as the ‘go to’ player down the stretch. She’s worked hard all summer and earned that right,” YSU head coach John Barnes said. “The players are getting more confident in her to throw her the ball down the stretch. We needed that. It’s been very strange without that security blanket of Heidi [Schlegel] and Tish [Latisha Walker] down there and slowly but surely we’re working through that.”
YSU walked away with a 55-46 win over the Colonials. With the win, the Penguins have started back-to-back seasons with a 4-0 record for the second time in program history, the first coming after the 1975 and 1976 seasons.
Heading into the season many expected Cash to play a more prominent role with the team as compared to last season, but few could have expected the impact she would make this season.
Cash has helped clinch three of the Penguins’ first four games this season. Cash gave YSU the lead in the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter against Canisius College and Radford University early this season.
Robert Morris (3-2) came into the game averaging 83.2 points per game. YSU was able to hold the Colonials to 20-59 from the field and 1-14 from 3-point range.
“I think Robert Morris is a really good team. I really think they’re going to be in the NCAA tournament this year. They shoot it extremely well and they play hard. They’re well coached…so I was thrilled,” Barnes said.
Despite the win, the Penguins’ offense continued to struggle early in the season. YSU jumped out to a 21-10 lead after the first quarter, but the Penguins fell into a scoring drought that lasted over seven minutes.
“We really haven’t done a great job at starting strong and being aggressive from the beginning, and I think we did that today,” Barnes said. “The players really attacked the basket and got some early fouls on the opponents—we were able to get to the free throw line. We got in foul trouble ourselves, so we had some different lineups in that we don’t necessary play together, so we kinda went on a little bit of a loll. Down the stretch I though we all played pretty hard and made some plays. Sarah [Cash] did her thing down the stretch and got the win.”