By Dan Hiner
With two games left in the regular season, the Youngstown State University women’s basketball team is fighting for the #2 seed in the Horizon League tournament.
But before the Penguins move on to the conference tournament, YSU will need to finish out their final two regular season games on the road against Northern Kentucky University and Wright State University.
The Penguins lost their first game to Northern Kentucky 88-77. Shar’Rae Davis, NKU guard and former Penguin, had her way with YSU in the first game. Davis scored a career-high 16 points and shot 75 percent from the field.
Head coach John Barnes said the Penguins’ defense has improved over the past two weeks. He went on to say the team is healthier than it was in the first matchup and Barnes expects forward
Janae Jackson and guard Indiya Benjamin to make the biggest impact.
“We’re a lot healthier this time … knock on wood so far. Hopefully we could have everybody at full strength,” Barnes said. “I thought they played well and made a lot of shots and we’ll try to do a better job defensively this time around.
“As you saw, having Janae [Jackson] not at full strength and Indiya [Benjamin] not at full strength, is definitely a detriment to our team and our outcome. Hopefully they make a difference in the next two games.”
Barnes said the team is looking forward to getting a chance at the #2 seed, but the team isn’t concerned about the tournament at this time. He said the players are focused on the final two games of the season.
If the Penguins win their final two games, they will reach the 20-win mark. It would be the second time under Barnes that YSU would record a 20-win season.
“It would be pretty exciting in terms of the future. We’re starting three sophomores, a freshman and a senior,” Barnes said. “Getting 20 wins in the regular season, or the season in general, would be exciting and a pretty great feat for these young kids.”
“Basically, you want to be playing your best basketball coming into the tournament and in the tournament. We’re just gonna try to keep improving and try to win games. Obviously, the second [seed] would be fantastic but we’re probably not going to think too much about that — just focus on the game in front of us and try to get that one.
“The fact that the second [seed] is there and getting that double-bye would be great. We kinda had games where we played great and games where we haven’t. I feel like we’re getting more consistent at the end of the year. We’re getting healthy again. We just want to continue to try to win games. Winning three of our last four is exciting this time of year and hopefully we could keep it going.