By Chris McBride
Freshman guard Chelsea Olson scored 26 points, 20 of those points coming in the second half, in a 66-52 win over Cleveland State University. Her performance featured the most points scored by a Youngstown State University freshman in 23 years.
The career night for Olson came after being thrusted into the starting lineup following injuries to key starters Nikki Arbanas and Alison Smolinski. After getting the starting job, she has since averaged 10 points in conference play.
“Since Nikki [Arbanas] has been out, we’ve really had to step up as guards,” said Olson, who also earned Horizon League Freshman of the Week honors. “I just try to be a lot more aggressive now, step up for my team and hopefully get the wins.”
CSU had the injury bug of its own playing without leading scorer Ashanti Abshaw.
Youngstown State (7-12, 3-5 Horizon League) concluded a grueling four game road trip in which the Penguins managed to only go 1-3.
Despite the hardships, the team has shown promise against some of the top teams staying in reach of Green Bay and taking Milwaukee down to the final possession.
“I thought we’ve gained some confidence,” YSU Head Coach John Barnes said in regards to how the team has played on the road. “Even though games haven’t quite gone our way on the road, to play well has been good to see. That win at Cleveland State was big for us.”
The Vikings dominated the first half conversation as their defensive pressure spun YSU into a three-minute scoring drought to close out the first and a two-minute drought to begin quarter two.
The score was in CSU’s favor heading toward the end of the second until Sarah Cash notched two free throws and a tip-in off a missed shot by Olson. That put the Penguins within one at halftime.
A 3-pointer from Morgan Brunner with around 7:30 left in the third quarter gave the Penguins the lead. From there, YSU never looked back as they began a 14-3 run that went unmatched. Olsen continued to be a main factor scoring seven more points a quarter dominated by the Penguins.
An Indiya Benjamin three would close the third with the score 44-35.
From there it was the Olson show as she scored 11 of her 26 points in the fourth quarter with the Vikings constantly trailing by nearly double digits. Late in the quarter, a Olivia Voskuhl’s 3-pointer made the score 52-42. From there, the Penguins defense would shut out the Vikings, allowing only two more field goals.
The high scorers for YSU were Olson with 26 points, Cash with 16 and Brunner adding 8 points. For CSU, Khayla Livingston had a team-high 13 points.
There was no question the offense was clicking with 22-48 shooting netting them 45.8 percent shooting from the field. Their defense was also actively working as the Penguins managed to hold the Vikings to 30.5 percent shooting.
With the win, Barnes looks toward the upcoming matchup with Northern Kentucky University. It’s a tricky team to game plan for.
“They’re going to throw a lot of things at us in terms of changing in defenses, matchup zones, switching man, 2-2-1 full court press, trapping half court,” Barnes said. “That’s kind of how they throw better teams off.”
The Norse rank toward the bottom in most offensive categories. What they lack in putting the ball in the basket, they gain on the opposite end of the court in stopping teams from scoring. This NKU defense rank in the top half of several defensive categories with the fifth ranking in scoring defense.
This Norse team also has a reputation for controlling the paint, something Barnes will also have to game plan how to stop.
“If they want to plug up the inside we’re a pretty solid 3-point shooting team so hopefully we’ll kick it back out and make some threes,” Barnes said.
YSU will play two home games this week before hitting the road again. The first will be against NKU on Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. and then Wright State University on Jan. 27 with tip-off at 1 p.m.