By Marc Weems
After a tough loss to Wright State University last Thursday, the Youngstown State University women’s basketball team is looking to rebound.
WSU got out to a 48-30 lead in the third quarter over YSU but the Penguins fought back to take the lead with 3:45 left in the fourth quarter at 56-54. YSU would lose 69-59 since it didn’t have enough energy to finish the comeback.
YSU (8-13, 4-6 Horizon League) is still trying to find consistency late in the schedule. Hopefully the calendar change to February will help the Penguins. That won’t help with four-straight road games.
“Northern Kentucky is a tough team. They find ways to keep games close and to get wins over good teams,” YSU head coach John Barnes said. “Obviously, they beat Green Bay and took Wright State to overtime. I thought they’ve played really well this year. NKU came out swinging and I thought our girls handled that well.”
NKU got up 21-9 with about three minutes left in the first quarter before YSU came back. The Penguins won 54-51 behind Chelsea Olson’s 16 points.
“We are excited for the next part of the season. We just have to approach every game the same regardless of who’s in or who’s out,” YSU shooting guard Nikki Arbanas said. “We have it in the back of our mind about teams that we have close losses to. Like the Wright State game, we knew that we improved and we hope to see them again in the playoffs.”
Now YSU has to look toward its next four games, which are all on the road and five of its eight games in February on the road.
It faces Oakland University tonight at 7 p.m. in Oakland. YSU lost to Oakland, 58-48, at home as the Penguins got outrebounded 45-30 which was a big reason for the loss.
“I think toughness, playing really smart and limiting mistakes. Obviously rebounding has been a key for us all year. We did a much better job against Wright State the second time,” Barnes said about keys to getting wins in the month of February.
YSU will continue to make strides as it plays three teams that are just above or below it in the Horizon League standings. YSU currently sits in sixth at 4-6.
It then faces the University of Detroit Mercy (1-19, 1-8) who YSU defeated 76-59, at home behind Arbanas’ 17 points.
Arbanas credits Olson with the team’s boost of energy during the year. Olson has now won Horizon League Freshman of the Week in back-to-back weeks.
“She has definitely brought a huge spark to our team and that’s honestly just what we needed. She’s gotten a lot better on defense and has become more aggressive on the offensive end,” Arbanas said about Olson’s improved production.
In the last two weeks, Olson is averaging 16.3 points per game, 5.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists on 47.2 percent shooting while playing 32.3 minutes per game.
After Detroit Mercy and Oakland, YSU faces Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (16-5, 8-2) who is currently in second place in the Horizon League. YSU lost to IUPUI, 65-43, at home with a poor shooting performance.
The last game of the four-game trip is the University of Illinois-Chicago (7-14, 0-10). YSU beat it 76-63 at home. UIC is the last team in the conference at 0-10.
“We have to make sure we are physical and keep a body on other players at all times,” Barnes said. “There are times that we don’t box out and we need to fix that. We need to fix those things up. We are playing for a seed in the tournament. That will be important.”
YSU has a chance to make its way into the top half of the standings with this road trip.