By Brian Yauger
The Youngstown State University women’s basketball team will be taking on the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in their first matchup of the Horizon League Tournament semifinals today at 3:30 p.m.
YSU split the series with the Phoenix during the regular season. The Penguins fell to Green Bay 60-42 at the Kress Center in Wisconsin and took them down 70-59 in the midst of their six-game homestand sweep in January and February.
Despite the huge win, that doesn’t mean this game is going to be a cakewalk for them.
“They’re tough, they’re always tough,” Penguins guard Chelsea Olson said after the game against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “If we come in like last time and be aggressive and play our game like last time, the outcome will be the outcome.”
Green Bay is one tough customer and is expected to pose problems for YSU at every turn. The Phoenix had their 20-season regular season conference championship streak snapped, so they’ll be eager to avenge that loss.
The Phoenix have the fifth-ranked scoring defense in Division I basketball, seventh in field goal percentage defense and ninth in 3-point field goal percentage defense.
In their prior meeting, the Penguins scored 70 points, the second most points allowed by Green Bay against a Horizon League opponent.
Jen Wellnitz was named the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year and was a first-team all-Horizon League pick.
“Green Bay does a great job of plugging up the paint,” Penguins coach John Barnes said on Friday. “They want to take away any paint drives, post touches. So we’re going to have to figure out a way to get it in there, get it into Mary [Dunn]. Once she gets the ball, be aware who is digging and helping and possibly doubling and making good decisions from there. That’s what we’re working on this weekend and hopefully we execute Monday.”
An advantage for YSU lies in their size. The two starting “bigs” for the Penguins received All-Horizon League honors with Mary Dunn making First Team All-Horizon League and Sarah Cash making the Second Team.
Dunn and Cash are two of the the top three in the league in field-goal percentage and both rank in the top 10 in Horizon League scoring.
“It’s hard to guard us because both of us shoot from the outside and we can both go inside,” Dunn said. “We have an advantage with Green Bay because they have only one big girl in at times. Having both of us just puts us up some.”
A win today would make history for the Penguins, giving them their sixth 23-win season in program history.
Also, a win will send the Penguins to their first ever Horizon League Tournament finals. YSU would then take on the winner of the top-seeded Wright State University and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
“For the next two games we’re going to have to go on a hot streak and find a way to win,” Barnes said. “Hopefully we’re going to cut down nets.”