By Dan Hiner
The Youngstown State University women’s basketball team decisively won their game against Niagara University 83-61. The Penguins’ 83 points were the most scored by the women’s team during a season opener in the past 14 years.
The Penguins started two freshmen guards: Indiya Benjamin and Nikki Arbanas. The two freshmen took control of the game early and shouldered some of the offense for senior forward Heidi Schlegel. Head coach John Barnes credits a lot of his backcourts success to Schlegel.
“I think a big part of it was Heidi though,” he said. “They were putting a lot of pressure on her — double teaming — and she found the open player, and made really good passes right to them.”
Benjamin finished with 11 points and six assists before leaving the game in the second half with a left leg injury. Benjamin didn’t commit a turnover throughout the game and looked poised during her time on the court.
“Its always exciting to have freshmen playing and playing quite a bit,” Barnes said. “It’s a little bit nerve-racking also. Niagara came in with a pretty experience group. Starting two or three seniors and the fourth and fifth seniors playing quite a bit. It was unnerving going in with quite a young group.”
Arbanas finished her first game with 25 points, a YSU freshman record. She finished 5-5 from behind the 3-point line and three round and three assists.
“It’s very exciting for her,” Barnes said. “You couldn’t ask for much more for a debut for a freshman. I thought she handled herself very well. A lot of times there’s nerves for newcomers, but she did a great job not only in making her shots, but they put on a lot of pressure and she did a good job against the pressure also.”
YSU will travel to Kent State University on Nov. 18 to play the Golden Flashes. Kent State lost its opener to North Dakota State University 74-68. Barnes said the Golden Flashes are a much-improved team and had an opportunity to beat the Bison.
“They’re a lot bigger than Niagara was. They like to pound the ball inside,” he said. “They have a good perimeter core that can really attack the basket. They are a good all-around team. They were up on North Dakota State most of the game. A couple of breaks went North Dakota States game down the stretch and they weren’t able to hang on, but they showed much improvement from two years ago to last year, and they looked much improved last year.”
A win on Saturday would not only give the Penguins their first 2-0 start in three years but would snap YSU’s five-game losing streak to the Golden Flashes. It would be the first victory at Kent since the 1996 season.
“They’re a different team than what we played against Niagara so it will be a whole different matchup because they have a lot of tall people,” Arbanas said. “I think we have to go into it with the same mindset as we did last game and hopefully we will come out with a win.”