The women’s Horizon League tournament began on Wednesday and the Youngstown State University had home court in its quarterfinal matchup against the University of Detroit Mercy.
The YSU offense was inconsistent, but was good enough as YSU pulled out a 73-55 win against the Titans.
The Penguins went on a 10-0 run at the beginning of the game to give them a 16-6 lead. The YSU offense started to stall and the Titans were able to claw their way back to cut the Penguins’ lead to 21-16 with 6:58 left in the first half.
At halftime the Penguins led 29-21. Both offenses stepped up in the second half. YSU outscored the Titans 44-34 in the second half. YSU forward Heidi Schlegel shot 3-5 and scored 13 of her 22 points in the second half.
“I think that everything starts on the defensive end,” guard Nikki Arbanas said. “We tried to deny them so they couldn’t get the ball as easily. We just worked really hard—we had to outwork them on the defensive end so on the offensive end we could pull further.”
Arbanas also scored 22 points, her second highest total this season. She also shot 5-9 from behind the 3-point line, tying the YSU record for 3-point shots made by a freshman during the Horizon League tournament.
“We knew that they were gonna let us get some shots from the outside and you gotta knock them down. I thought Nikki did a great job at shooting at the right times and being aggressive when she had openings and knocked them down,” YSU head coach Barnes said.
The Penguins will play the University of Green Bay-Wisconsin in the semifinals on Friday. YSU lost its previous two meetings against the Phoenix, including a 73-27 loss at the Beeghly Center back on Feb. 28.
“I think we like another chance in the terms that we didn’t play a good as we could have,” Barnes said. “I think Green Bay is a great team. They are very good defensively. Obviously it’s gonna be a tough matchup for us, but we would like to prove that we can play better than what we have the past two times. We’ll get that opportunity and we’ll see what we’ll do with it.”
Arbanas echoed Barnes’ comments on the upcoming matchup against Green Bay.
“I think we definitely deserve to get chance at them again and hopefully play our game instead of playing their game or being scared of them,” Arbanas said.
The Penguins will be going to the Horizon League semifinals for the third consecutive season. Barnes thinks the program is moving in the right direction, but believes there is still room for improvement.
“I think that we are making steps—they might not be big steps, but at least we’re making steps,” he said. “To be in that situation for the third year in a row is pretty exciting. You always want to break through and get to that championship game and that’s obviously our goal right now. We’re just trying to take it one game at a time. We’ll start focusing on Green Bay and fly out tomorrow and get practicing and shoot around and hopefully we’ll play a great game.