By Dan Hiner
After losing two games early in the month, the Youngstown State University women’s basketball team was looking to gain momentum heading into an easier portion of the schedule.
The Penguins are coming off of wins against the University of Detroit Mercy and Oakland University last week.
“It’s nice to have that two-game win streak going into another road trip, but we had a great practice today and we got one more here at home and then we’ll be on the road for two games,” head coach John Barnes said. “It’s exciting to be where we are because we can finish as high as second, or if you don’t play well and tank, you could finish toward the bottom. So you can control your own destiny.”
Barnes said the team played well against Detroit, but could have played better.
“We’re trying to just take it one game at a time, as cliché as that is, but we had some good runs this year, we had some runs where we didn’t play so well,” Barnes said. “I thought that we played really hard at Detroit. We didn’t play as smart as we could have at times, but we played hard enough to get the win down there.”
The Penguins are confident heading on the road for games against the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and Valparaiso University this week.
“Confidence-wise it always helps,” Barnes said. “We were on a little bit of a down tick — losing some close games that we could have or should have won. We played very well at home against Milwaukee and got a big win, being able to win at home at any time especially with a young team is a confidence booster.”
Senior forward Heidi Schlegel was named the Horizon League Player of the Week. Schlegel averaged 19.5 points and 12 rebounds last week against the Oakland University and Detroit.
“She’s very unselfish. Most teams are now double teaming us down in the post, if not triple teaming us,” Barnes said. “Whether it’s Tish or Heidi, they’re coming and they’ve done a great job at getting the ball out of there to our open shooters. It creates great opportunities for us offensively because they’ve been so effective in the post.”
Opponents are starting to double team Schlegel and senior Latisha Walker. The other members of the team have stepped up to provide offense from behind the three-point line.
“They’ve done a really good job. I’m very proud of them — especially at Detroit,” Schlegel said. “I thought Indiya [Benjamin] stepped up and she just went out and played and she just had fun. It’s good to have players like that on my team that can step up.”
The Panthers are 8-15 on the season and 4-7 in conference play. The Penguins are aware that Milwaukee is toward the bottom of the conference, but are not overlooking the Panthers on their home court.
“They really play well at home. Our team understands that it doesn’t matter who we’re playing and where they finished in the league — especially in our league, anybody can beat anybody. Valpo beat Milwaukee pretty handily the other night at home. Milwaukee beat Oakland at home pretty handily and Oakland had beaten Green Bay the game before. It really doesn’t matter. Every team, if you’re not ready to play, can beat anybody else,” Barnes said. “So we just keep pounding that in and hoping that sets in and hopefully they realize that and come ready to play both games.”