By Brian Yauger
A nerve-racking feeling could be felt all across Beeghly Center on March 6. The Youngstown State University women’s basketball team were trailing the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee by five points, their largest deficit of the game, then coach John Barnes called a timeout.
“We just tried to stay calm and let them know there was a lot of time left,” Barnes said. “We have to execute. We didn’t do a great job of executing in the first half, part of that was how Milwaukee was defending, part of it was that we didn’t do a great job communicating. Foul trouble didn’t help us much either. Down the stretch I thought we really executed some sets for layups and that kind of takes the wind out of the other team a little bit.”
After the timeout, with two seconds on the shot clock, McKenah Peters received the pass off the inbounds and was fouled as she sank her basket to set up the chance to convert on a three-point play.
And convert she did, sparking a Penguins run that shifted the momentum right back to YSU.
That momentum would continue the rest of the game giving the Penguins their 22nd win of the season, taking down the Panthers 64-58, advancing them to the Horizon League Tournament semifinals.
“Great job to [Milwaukee coach] Kyle [Rechlicz] and Milwaukee,” Barnes said. “They came in ready to play and they played hard and battled right to the end. This time of year it’s called March Madness for a reason. It was a heck of a tough game. Very proud of the team for fighting until the end.”
Early in the contest, Alison Smolinski made history once more, tying and then breaking the Horizon League single season 3-pointer record held by Senee Shearer of the University of Detroit Mercy set during the 2012-13 season. Smolinski would finish with six points.
Despite having guards plastered to her the entire game, Sarah Cash still dominated, scoring 15 points and bringing down 16 boards. The key to her performance was a common theme throughout her career as a Penguin — aggression.
“I just tried to be aggressive and have confidence while I was out there,” Cash said. “They played great defense on me so I felt like I struggled on offense but I just tried to do my best.”
With 25 seconds remaining in the game and a three-point lead, Milwaukee forward Lizzie Odegard attempted a shot from behind the arc to tie the game up, but Chelsea Olson jumped up, blocked the shot and put the dagger in the Panthers.
“She made the first one on me so I was just trying to not let her make another one on me,” Olson said.
The Penguins take on another Wisconsin team on Monday when they square off against the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay at the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit in the Horizon League Tournament semifinals.
YSU split the season series against Green Bay, losing to them on their Wisconsin road trip but taking them down last month at Beeghly to cap off their homestand.
“They’re tough, they’re always tough,” Olson said. “If we come in like last time and be aggressive and play our game like last time, the outcome will be the outcome.”