By Dan Hiner
The Youngstown State University women’s basketball team is a group that prides itself on its ability to score and shoot the ball well. However, the Penguins have found themselves in another shooting slump as the season comes to a close.
YSU has reached 70 points once in the last five games. The Penguins are averaging 65.7 points per game this season, but during this five game stint, YSU offense averaged 56.6 points per game.
The Penguins lost their last game against Cleveland State University 53-43, and the YSU offense struggled throughout the game. The Penguins shot 24.6 percent from the field. YSU head coach John Barnes said the team’s defense hasn’t been the issue, but the team has to find a way to hit shots as the Horizon League tournament approaches.
“You have to make shots. It’s not rocket science. We’re gonna win games if we’re making shots. We average the league best, 10.3 threes a game,” Barnes said. “We’re like second or third in the league in 3-point field goal percentage. That’s our game. We’re usually a pretty good 3-point shooting team. If we don’t make shots, it’s gonna be hard for us to win.”
YSU guard Kelley Wright said the team has been hitting shots in practice, but the team has been unable to find its groove come games. Wright said the team has been dealing with confidence issues since the loss to Cleveland State.
“Coming off that loss, we’re kind of a little bummed about it, but we know that winning this week will mean just that much more,” Wright said. “I think if we get that win, it will definitely get our morale up more,”
Barnes said the team’s inability to score is a direct result of the injuries to point guard Indiya Benjamin and forward Janae Jackson. Both have been dealing with ankle injuries since the beginning of February.
“They were playing pretty well at that time, and they have a lot of weapons. We were struggling in terms of Indiya [Benjamin] and Janae [Jackson] got hurt in the UIC game and struggled at Valpo [Valparaiso University],” Barnes said. “We’re hoping they’re close to 100 percent this time. And as a team, more chemistry in terms of playing our regulars rather than throwing people in maybe where they don’t normally play.”
Now the team is getting ready to play Valparaiso on Thursday at the Beeghly Center. The Penguins lost 65-60 in the teams’ first meeting on Jan. 23. Barnes said Valpo hasn’t changed their style of play over the past four weeks.
“They’re very similar. They run a similar offense, they like to push it up,” Barnes said. “Defensively … nobody changes a lot this time of year. Basically, it’s whoever plays that best at that time. Our league is tough. I think there are only two teams in our league that have an under .500 record, which is crazy. That says a lot about your league. They beat Northern Kentucky, who’s one of the best teams in the league. They beat Oakland who’s very capable of beating anyone.”
Wright said the team’s goal is to win the next four games. If the Penguins win the last four regular season games, the Penguins will have a third 20-win season in four years and momentum heading into the Horizon League tournament.
“Coach has said it from the beginning, our primary goal is to win the Horizon League championship,” Wright said. “It’s still in our reach, and hopefully we could get it.”