YOUNGSTOWN — With its win streak snapped this past Sunday, Youngstown State is looking to get back to what had carried it to an 8-0 record in the first place.
YSU (8-1) was defeated 78-58 at Penn State to begin the week, bringing to an end an 8-game win streak that included a pair of wins over MAC schools as well as a 4-0 mark in Horizon League play.
“The good thing about Penn State is we learned a lot from it. We got a little bit away from what got us to that point — being really tough, hard-nosed on the defensive side, and not allowing easy baskets,” YSU head coach John Barnes said. “We did a lot of that against Penn State; they got a ton of easy baskets. We didn’t really protect the paint, and we just relied a lot on 3-point shooting and they weren’t going in.”
As a team, YSU shot just 6-of-28 (21.4 percent) from deep and 17-of-61 overall. In prior games, the Penguins could overcome that with stellar defense, but as Barnes said, that didn’t happen in State College.
“That forced us to have a reality check and reevaluate where we’re at,” Barnes said. “We’ve had a couple of really good, hard-nosed practices, and we’re really looking forward to getting back on the court (tonight).”
The Penguins host Division II’s Davis and Elkins (W.Va.) this evening for a 7 p.m. game at the Beeghly Center. The Senators enter at 1-8 and have fallen in each of their last seven games.
Guard Dream Cherry, an Akron native and graduate of St. Vincent-St. Mary, averages 17.1 points per game, while forward Marissa Berlin, a Uniontown native and graduate of Green High, is averaging a double-double at 10.5 points and 10.8 rebounds per contest.
Of that duo, Barnes commented, “(Cherry’s) made 24 threes in nine games, so that’s a lot, and (Berlin) gets a ton of rebounds, 35 offensive rebounds in nine games, so that’s a lot, too.”
And, of course, he’s expecting D&E to give YSU its best shot, since this is one of the Senators’ only chance at a D1 opponent.
“I think Davis and Elkins is going to be really excited and bring their A-game. They’ve got nothing to lose and will throw it all on the table,” Barnes said. “Upsets happen all the time, so we have to be ready to play.”
On YSU’s end, the Penguins are seemingly back to full health, as Lilly Ritz returned from an illness at Penn State and is continuing to work back into the lineup. Between that and Malia Magestro’s ankle injury earlier in the year, the Penguins have had to tinker with combinations fairly often.
“We’ve kind of had different lineups in and out and all over the place, so this is an opportunity for us to get our lineup back together — practicing together, playing together — before we get back in the conference,” Barnes said.
At PSU, Chelsea Olson, Magestro and Lindsey Mack each scored nine points, while Ritz had eight points. Olson also notched nine rebounds.
That balance has been a common theme all season, and Barnes says YSU will seek to involve as many players as possible tonight, too.
He concluded, “Hopefully we can get a lot of players experience and a lot of minutes.”