Road Test: Penguins Travel Twice as Schlegel Nears Milestone
With two road games on tap Friday and Sunday in Wisconsin, Heidi Schlegel is not thinking about reaching a milestone that will cap off an incredible junior season.
Schlegel needs just 27 points to reach the 1,000-point plateau but said winning is more important. Tell that to her family who will be traveling as long as possible to watch Schlegel achieve that feat.
“They’re going no matter what,” Schlegel said. “My dad comes to every game, but my mom and my stepdad don’t always get to come, so I’m really excited that they’re coming.
“I honestly didn’t even know about it. It’s not a big deal to me. I’m more focused on the team and how we’re playing as a team.”
Schlegel has done more this season than just nearing 1,000 career points. She broke Youngstown State University’s record for free throws made in a season on Saturday in a victory over Valparaiso University. She also ranks third in the Horizon League with 19.5 points per game and fifth with 7.9 rebounds per contest.
“Heidi’s just an extremely hard worker and will do anything that needs to be done for the team to win,” coach John Barnes said. “It’s exciting to see how far she’s come in a year. I just think she’s scratching her potential offensively.”
YSU (11-12, 7-3 Horizon League) will probably need Schlegel’s averages in Wisconsin beginning with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Friday. The Panthers lost at Beeghly Center, 87-71, on Jan. 18. UWM ranks eighth in the conference in scoring offense (69 points per game) and scoring defense (76.1).
After that is a trip to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, the No. 1 team in the conference. YSU defeated the Phoenix, 66-57, on Jan. 16. Barnes returns to Green Bay where he was an assistant coach for the Phoenix a season ago.
“I haven’t had a lot of time to think about much,” he said. “I do have a ton of family coming to both games, so that’s exciting. We’re trying to take it one game at a time. I’m really worried about Milwaukee right now.”
With only six games left on the schedule, this weekend is critical as YSU looks to regain the top spot. YSU ranks fourth in the conference after a 6-0 start propelled them to the No. 1 spot.
The Penguins were on a three-game losing streak — all games coming on the road — before snapping that with a decisive 84-56 victory over the Crusaders on Saturday. After Friday, YSU heads to a place Barnes is all too familiar with as far as fan support goes.
“They have a great fan support. Their fans are really enthusiastic,” he said. “I think it’s the Think Pink game also, so that will raise the amount of people at the game. It’s just a great environment. It’s what you want to see at a college basketball game.”
With that said, Barnes added that YSU is not too far off the radar.
“I think winning helps, but this community has always been supportive of women’s basketball,” Barnes said. “There were some fairly recent seasons where the women’s program was well below par. I can see the community getting frustrated with that situation.
“You need to be very competitive, put a great team on the floor and really compete. You want to see hard-working, good players on the floor. Hopefully we’re bringing that to the table, and that in turn brings more fans in the stands.”
Friday’s contest begins at 8 p.m., while Sunday’s matchup starts at 2 p.m. Milwaukee ranks seventh in the Horizon League. Ahead of YSU besides Green Bay are Cleveland State University, in second place, and Wright State University, in third.
“If you’re not going to dream big and dream for that top spot, then you might as well not be coaching or playing,” Barnes said. “We want to do everything we can to host the whole thing.”