By Brian Yauger
Alison Smolinski hit her 200th career 3-pointer early in the game that set the tone of Youngstown State University’s 81-29 victory over the University of Illinois-Chicago perfectly.
“It was a good win to keep our confidence up,” Smolinski said. “We have a big game coming up so it was good to not play down to their level.”
The win was their largest victory over a Horizon League foe in school history, and the 52-point margin of victory was the sixth largest in program history.
“I’m very proud of the team,” Penguins head coach John Barnes said. “I thought they played hard and executed the game plan. We knew we would have to come out early and have a good start and try to build from there and I thought the team really did a good job of that.”
Barnes continued on to discuss the strong defense of his team.
“I thought the team responded well defensively,” he said. “We tried to plug up the paint as much as possible. (Brittany) Byrd is an excellent scorer, second leading scorer in the conference. We tried to focus on her, tried to make everything difficult for her and not only did McKenah (Peters) do a very good job, I thought the whole team was very focused on where she was and tried to be in those gaps. I’m very proud of the job they did.”
Byrd was held to zero points on seven shots from the field.
Mary Dunn scored a career-high 26 points and pulled down a career-high 13 rebounds for her double-double in the last four games.
“I’m really happy about it,” Dunn said on her performance. “Now I just have to move on because we face the best post player really out there. Since it is a conference game, we try and focus which obviously we do. Any team can come back and we’ve been there before. It can be difficult but we have to step up.”
Barnes was also happy with her performance.
“Mary’s coming along,” Barnes said. “Every game she’s getting better. It’s fun to watch her develop. I think she’s had a great person to learn from in Sarah Cash and some of the older players, and she’s following in good footsteps and I’m very happy for her.”
Smolinski hit five 3-pointers throughout the game, bringing herself to 204 career 3-pointers as a Penguin. She is tied with former Penguin Indiya Benjamin at 204, and with five more, she will tie current record holder Nikki Arbanas. Smolinski finished the game with 20 points in her 21 minutes of game time.
The Penguins (11-3, 3-0 Horizon League) had four players score in double digits, Dunn (26), Smolinski (20), Deleah Gibson (12) and Sarah Cash (10). Each put up double figures, and eight players total registered at least one point.
The Penguins held UIC to just 19.3 percent shooting, and their 29 points were the third-fewest allowed in a game in program history.
The Penguins move to 3-0 in Horizon League play, and 11-3 overall. YSU has a quick turnaround, continuing on in Horizon League play at home against Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis.
“IUPUI is an excellent team,” Barnes said. “Very talented, well coached, play hard. They beat us in this building last year. I think they were picked second in the (Horizon) League, so obviously the coaches believe in how good they are. We have to take care of ourselves. We have to execute the game plan. They have arguably the best player in the conference in (Macee) Williams, and some of the best guards. They’re formidable to say the least and we’re just going to have to play as hard as we can and let the chips fall where they may.”
YSU hosts IUPUI on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Beeghley Center.