By Dan Hiner
The Youngstown State University women’s basketball team entered the season opener against American University missing one starting guard in Nikki Arbanas starting forward Sarah Cash was limited practice after a knee injury.
The starting lineup took another hit in the second half of YSU’s 77-64 loss to American on Friday night.
Starting forward Kelsea Newman and guard Kelley Wright left the game in the third quarter and could not return. Newman suffered a knee injury and had ice packs on both her knees for the rest of the game. Wright left the game with an injured right ankle.
Regardless of the injuries, YSU (0-1) dug itself into a hole in the first half and couldn’t climb out.
After YSU forward Mary Dunn tied the game at 15, YSU shot one for seven from the field and trailed at the start of the second quarter 20-18.
“I think it’s probably first game jitters because they’re making the shots all the time at practice. So I think they just need to relax and they’ll go in,” Wright said.
American (1-0) started to pull away in the second quarter.
The Penguins were outscored 19-8 in the second quarter. YSU’s only hit on shot in the second quarter, a jump shot by Dunn in the final 2:38 of the half. The rest of the Penguins’ points were scored from the free throw line.
“It’s definitely a learning experience,” Wright said. “It’s gonna be really good to go over how the game went. We definitely learned that we weren’t in help [defense], so we have to get there. And it’s just a good opportunity to show good improvement over the year.”
Dunn finished the game with six points and four rebounds in 10 minutes. Cash didn’t start the game, but she led the Penguins with 16 points. YSU head coach John Barnes said the coaching staff has to limit Cash’s playing time because they don’t know how her knee will hold up if she is forced to play too much early in the season.
“I think I performed ok with it. I didn’t play as well as I thought I could have, but I thought I played well enough for where my knee is at this point,” Cash said.
The Penguins also had a difficult time holding onto the basketball. YSU committed 11 turnovers in the first half. The Penguins limited the miscues to only four in the second half, but American scored 13 points off the 15 turnovers.
YSU couldn’t find its shot all game. The Penguins shot 18-64 (28.1 percent) from the field. YSU tried to move the ball into the paint, but despite scoring 26 points in the paint, American blocked six shots.
Prior to leaving the game, Wright scored 13 points and tied the team lead with four assists. Newman scored five points, including one of YSU’s three 3-pointers on the night.
“It makes it tough. I thought Kelley did a great job,” Barnes said. “She had 13 points, four assists and one turnover in 17 minutes. I mean, that’s a really good start to a game. For her to go down and Kelsea was playing solid, it’s frustrating to say the least but it’s a great opportunity for our young players to get minutes. If we could get some people back healthy, with these young players getting experience, it will make us better down the road.”
American 77, YSU 64
American (1-0) — Emily Kinneston 6-2-16, Lauren Crisler 5-3-13, Michael Harris 5-1-12, Elina Koskimies 3-0-7, Cecily Carl 3-0-6, Kaitlyn Lewis 2-0-6, Maria Liddane 1-3-5, Katie Marenyi 1-2-5, Micahaela Nieuwenhuizen 2-0-4, Jordan Light 1-0-3. Totals: 29-11-77.
YSU (0-1) — Sarah Cash 4-8-16, Kelley Wright 1-10-13, Jenna Hirsch 3-1-8, Mary Dunn 3-0-6, Kelsea Newman 2-0-5, Morgan Brunner 0-4-4, Tamira Ford 1-0-2, Indiya Benjamin 1-0-2, Mailee Jones 1-0-2, Melinda Trimmer 1-0-2, Natalie Myers 1-0-2, Morgan Olson 0-2-2. Totals 18-25-64.
American 20 19 24 14 — 77
YSU 18 8 22 16 — 64
3-point field goals: American 8 (Lewis 2, Kinneston 2, Light, Marenyi, Koskimies, Harris); YSU 3 (Newman, Hirsch, Wright).
Rebounds: American 38 (Crisler 10, Koskimies 5, Liddane 4, Briana DuBose 3, Harris 3, Lewis 2, Kinneston 2, Nieuwenhuizen 2, Light, Marenyi, Team 5); YSU 34 (Smolinski 6, Benjamin 5, Hirsch 4, Dunn 4, Myers 4, Ford 3, Newman, Trimmer, Cash, Brunner, Team 4).
Assists: American 20 (Kinneston 8, Liddane 3, Nieuwenhuizen 2, Light 2, Marenyi 2, Crisler, Lewis, DuBose); YSU 11 (Benjamin 4, Wright 4, Newman, Smolinski, Hirsch).