By Brian Yauger
The Youngstown State University women’s basketball team opened the season with a 69-59 overtime victory over the Robert Morris University Colonials.
With the Penguins down two, and the final seconds ticking away, leading scorer Sarah Cash was smothered on the floor. Cash dished the ball out to Melinda Trimmer who put the ball up, tying the game with one second remaining on the clock, sending the game into overtime.
“Thank goodness ,” Penguins head coach John Barnes said when the ball went into the net. “It was kind of a broken play and she just made a great play. She’s very capable and as a senior to come out and make that shot in the first game to really propel us to a win, I’m proud of her, happy for her and just hopefully we continue to do what we did most of the game.”
Moving the ball is what is preached to the Penguins, and it worked in their favor.
“Whenever we get the ball into the post, the big key in our offense is moving on the wings so that, not only Sarah can get more of an opening but we ourselves can be open too if we’re there, and it just so happened that Sarah fought for the ball and I was in the right spot, right time,” Trimmer said. “Ball movement is key to getting any kind of open shots, we definitely take that to heart and work on moving the ball well.”
The Penguins performed much stronger on defense compared to the last time the two teams faced off, with Robert Morris winning 84-52. YSU credits that to rebounding.
“It’s really nice to get that redemption,” sophomore guard Chelsea Olson said. “We’ve been working a lot on rebounding, and we outrebounded them by six and last year we got crushed on the boards so that was a key part of our defense.”
Cash put up 16 points in her 31 minutes on the court. McKenah Peters impressed in her time as well, shooting 50 percent from the field and scoring 14 points. Four Penguins scored in the double digits, Cash (16), Peters (14), Olson (13) and Smolinski (10), with nine of Smolinski’s points coming from beyond the arc.
Despite a slight fizzling in the fourth quarter, the Penguins controlled the overtime period, limiting RMU to three points and putting up 13 of their own. Trimmer set the pace with her game-tying shot according to Barnes.
“A big thing was, we had kind of felt that we lost the game,” Barnes said. “We had it in control, then had two or three turnovers down the stretch and I think that shot by Melinda gave us a boost of energy and confidence saying ‘hey, it’s a whole new ball game now in overtime’, and right from the start, and we got a big stop and just went from there.”
Points off turnovers played key, with the Penguins scoring 24 compared to the Colonials’ 14.
Another key to the game was rebounding, Olson convincingly led the team in rebounds, with a career-high 14 rebounds including two offensive rebounds rebounds. Cash had the second-most rebounds with six rebounds with four offensive rebounds.
“Now when I usually guard point guards, they don’t really crash the boards, so it’s my job to go in there and get the rebounds so we can start the break right away” Olson said.
This was YSU’s first opening win since 2015 when they defeated Canisius College, 53-51.
YSU looks to continue their success, as they host the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Beeghly Center.