By Brandon Terlecky
It has been quite the season for the Youngstown State University women’s basketball team and there is no sign of them slowing down. They currently hold a record of 18-6 and 10-3 in the Horizon League, and the team is confident it can keep this stride going forward as the tournament approaches.
“We just have to keep our stride going, keep playing our game the keep pushing each other,” Penguins point guard Chelsea Olsen said.
The University of Oakland took the court in Thursday night’s game ready to play as they led the Penguins at half-time. YSU started off rough in the first half only shooting 25 percent from the field and went into halftime down by three points.
“They were hot and that happens sometimes,” Olson. They shot the ball well early, in those moments you just have to stick to the plan and not go into panic mode.”
There certainly was no panic in the second half for the Penguins as they made their last four out of five attempts in the third quarter and outscored Oakland from the free-throw line. YSU went on on to rally past the Golden Grizzlies in the fourth-quarter and win the game 76-61.
Post player and two-time Horizon League Player of the Week Mary Dunn discussed the stride they are on and how she has continued to be so dominant in the paint.
“Working everyday with the coaches has been key, my teammates push me to be the best and they trust me when I am on the court and the ball is in my hands,” Dunn said.
Dunn finished the homestand sweep with a blowout win against Detroit Mercy with 14 points and 7-of-10 from the field. She said she is also getting her three-point shot down and being more confident in taking them.
“It’s something I have been working on for a while. I am getting more confident on the court when the opportunity is there, I take it and it’s a great feeling,” Dunn said.
The Penguins are now 13-1 at home and are coming off their best shooting performance in 21 years at YSU. Alison Smolinski shot 5-5 from three-point range to start the game and at one point, held a 19-0 lead. Penguins coach John Barnes spoke on Smolinski’s performance as of late and what she brings to the team.
“She has been so fun to coach and watch this season. She’s great to be around and even with her great three-point shooting, she is very unselfish with the ball and all about getting it to the open man if her shot isn’t there,” Barnes said.
With only nine players on the current roster, Barnes stresses relying on each other is what makes this team who they are. When players are tired and ready for a break, the “next man up approach” comes into play and gets fresh legs on the court.
“These players are ready at every moment,” Barnes said. “When one needs to come off the next one is flying in and ready to take over, it’s incredible to watch and know you can rely on every single player to pick the other one up and continue the hard work.”
They play their last two home games on Feb. 14, as they host the Green Bay Phoenix at 7 p.m. and Feb. 16, against the Milwaukee Panthers at 1 p.m.