By Jeff Brown
The Youngstown State University women’s basketball team is off to a 6-0 start for the first time since the 1996-1997 season, and only the third time the women have ever done so.
The Lady ‘Guins are coming off two victories over the weekend in the Teresa Phillips Thanksgiving Classic. The Penguins were the only team to go undefeated in the Classic. Senior Heidi Schlegel was named MVP of the classic and also earned Horizon League Player of the Week honors. Schlegel is off to a phenomenal start this season averaging a double-double through the first six games, 15.3 points and 10.8 rebounds.
It has not been all easy for the Penguins. It took a free throw by freshman guard Indiya Benjamin with seven seconds remaining to lift the Penguins to a 51-50 victory over Nicholls State University on Saturday. The Penguins struggled throughout the game committing a season high of 27 turnovers.
“We need to continue to get mentally tougher,” John Barnes, head coach for the women’s team, said. “On Saturday, we let one error kind of compound into another into another instead of just forgetting it, putting it behind us, and moving forward.”
Barnes said it was the zone defense of Nicholls State that gave the Penguins problems hanging onto the ball, but he thinks that having seen the zone early will help out in the long run.
“Even the next day Tennessee State tried to throw on a few different things and we handled it much better. We were much more aggressive. We attacked it, instead of being tentative,” he said. “As long as we keep getting better, keep improving. I’ll be happy.”
While the Penguins are off to a fantastic start, the YSU men’s basketball team is fresh off an 84-76 overtime loss to Illinois State University.
Guard Marcus Keene led the Penguins with a career high 29 points including five three’s, but the Penguins struggled once regulation ended, getting outscored 20-8 in overtime.
“We’ve just got to keep competing,” center Bobby Hain said. “We’re in every game I feel like. It’s just sometimes we come up short or make a mental or small mistake. Like in Illinois State I missed a rebound, we missed a one and one. It’s the little things we got to fix.”
The Penguins look to rebound Tuesday night against Robert Morris University. RMU comes into the game 2-4 on the season and have struggled from the field, only shooting 33.7 percent.
“They’re going to be a real competitive team, just like Kent [State University] was. It’s such a close game we kind of see it as another rivalry game. So it’s going to be an intense loud game,” Hain said.
YSU is in the middle of one the toughest stretches their schedule presents this season as far as travel is concerned. After this weeks game’s against RMU and South Dakota State University on Friday, they will have played seven of their last eight games on the road.
“I’m not sure that there’s anybody in the country playing seven or eight games not at home,” Jerry Slocum, head coach for the men’s team, said. “It’s clearly a challenge to have that many road games.”