By Brian Yauger
Six games into the season, and the Youngstown State University women’s basketball team sits 4-2, which is the second-best record in the Horizon League.
The Penguins are posting a weak shooting percentage, not what the team expected coming into the season, but are still pulling off wins, a positive sign to Penguins head coach John Barnes.
“Honestly, we just need to shoot the ball better,” Barnes said. “We haven’t shot the ball that well this whole year, so to be 4-2, I’m pretty excited about it. As to how we’re shooting, I think we’re last in the league in 3-point field goal percentage. Going in we figured that would be our strength. I think we’ve been getting good looks, we just need a few to go down and we’ll be in great shape.”
YSU is coming off of two tough losses to even tougher programs, dropping games against Kent State University and Yale University. The latter loss came in the final minute after holding a 17-point lead. In those two games, the Penguins shot 27 and 35 percent from the field, respectively. That has led to their two lowest scoring efforts of the season.
“I think our confidence is a little low right now, but I think all teams go through some shooting slumps,” senior guard Alison Smolinski said. “We just have to get that confidence back. I think we should be 5-1, but sometimes things don’t go as planned, but I think we just have to look at the positives and bounce back. The loss to Yale was tough, that one hurt, but like I said, we have to continue to look at the positives, focus on our defense, I think that’s been pretty good, and then continue to pound in to Mary [Dunn] and Sarah [Cash], and our shots will fall.”
Smolinski leads the Penguins in total points, with 79 on the season. McKenah Peters and Cash follow close behind with 67 and 63, respectively.
The Penguins are down to eight active players. They started the season with nine players able to play, but an injury to Amara Chikwe has that number down to eight over the last few games. Barnes isn’t worried rolling with a nine-player lineup, but dropping down to eight does cause some concern.
“If all nine were healthy no, but with Amara out that stretches our minutes a little bit,” Barnes said. “But she should be back here soon. I felt like we had a great rotation down. The kids were playing well and everything, going 4-0, and boom. You’re back to ground zero trying to figure it all out again. I think getting her back will be huge, and I think we’ll get back on track and get rolling again when she gets rolling.”
After taking on the University of Akron, YSU faces Canisius College on Dec. 1. They get a few days of rest before welcoming St. Francis University for a Nov. 8 tip off at 4:45 p.m.
“We practiced pretty well Monday,” Barnes said. “I think everyone was a little down because they knew how close they were to being 5-1 with five kids out with injuries, but we’re focused on Akron. They’re undefeated and playing very well so that’s enough of a challenge to focus on.”