Women's Basketball Travels to MAC-East Favorite Miami (Ohio)

Karen Flagg | Photo by Ron Stevens
Karen Flagg | Photo by Ron Stevens

Following a six-day break for Thanksgiving, the Youngstown State women's basketball team will take its 3-0 record on the road to play at Miami (Ohio) on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Millett Hall in Oxford, Ohio. The game will be broadcast live exclusively on 570wkbn.com with Mike Pilch calling the action. Miami will be offering live stats and live video on muredhawks.com.

The Penguins are 3-0 for the first time in 13 years and are riding their first three-game winning streak since the 2007-08 season. YSU also had a four-game winning streak that season that was interestingly stopped by Miami on Dec. 7, 2007. That was the last meeting between the Penguins and the RedHawks.

After beating Pittsburgh and Buffalo on the road to start the season, the Penguins defeated Bryant 75-59 in their home opener last Sunday. YSU was outshot 52.2 percent to 36.6 percent in the contest, but the Penguins outscored the Bulldogs 34-8 off turnovers. The Penguins forced 29 turnovers in the game and outscored Bryant 48-32 in the second half. They induced six of those turnovers during a 14-0 run in the second period that saw a 49-47 lead grow into a 63-47 advantage. Senior forward Brandi Brown led all players with 26 points and 19 rebounds en route to earning Horizon League Co-Player-of-the-Week honors. Freshman guard Shar'Rae Davis added a career-best 23 points, 18 of which came in the second half. Davis also registered five steals and three assists in the second period.

Miami is coming off a 55-42 win over the College of Charleston on Friday evening. The RedHawks, who were picked to win the East Division of the Mid-American Conference, are 3-1 in the young season after going 21-10 last season. Senior Courtney Osborn, a Preseason All-MAC East Division Selection, is averaging 18.8 points per game.

Youngstown State will remain on the road to play at Northern Kentucky on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Game Recap vs. Bryant

Youngstown State used strong efforts on defense and the offensive glass to defeat Bryant 75-59 last Sunday at Beeghly Center.

The Penguins were outshot 52.2 percent to 36.6 percent but attempted 25 more field goals in the 16-point win. YSU had 20 offensive rebounds, and it turned 29 turnovers into 34 points.

Brandi Brown led all players with 26 points and 19 rebounds, and Shar'Rae Davis had a career high 23 points. Brown had 20 points and 13 rebounds in the second half alone as YSU outscored the Bulldogs 48-32 in the period.

Quick Notes

  • The game was tied at 27-27 at halftime, but YSU outscored Bryant 48-32 in the second half.
  • The Penguins shot 44.1 percent in the and corraled 13 offensive rebounds in the second half.
  • Shar'Rae Davis scored 18 of her 23 points and had all of her five steals and all but one of her four assists in the second half.
  • YSU missed its first nine field-goal attempts until Monica Touvelle's 3-pointer at the 15:07 mark. The Penguins went on to start 1-for-14 from the field, but they 25-for-57 (43.9 percent) the rest of the way.
  • Bryant led by as much as 10-3 during YSU's slow shooting start.
  • There were five ties and seven lead changes before YSU pulled away with a 14-0 run in the second half. That spurt turned a 49-47 lead into a 63-47 edge. Brown and Davis combined for 12 of YSU's 14 points.
  • Liz Hornberger set a new career high with five assists. She is averaging three assists per game, up from 1.1 last year.
  • Karen Flagg tied her career high with nine points, and she set new career bests with six rebounds and four assists.

Scouting Miami

Miami has three starters and eight letterwinners returning from last year's team that finished 21-10 overall and played in the WNIT. The RedHawks lost their season opener in overtime at Eastern Kentucky, but they've rebounded to win three straight games at home. Senior Courtney Osborn is averaging 18.8 points per game and is a preseason first-team all-conference selection. She averaged 17.5 points and 5.5 assists last season.

Last Time vs. Miami

YSU shot 22.2 percent and was outscored 42-21 in the second half in a 64-45 loss to Miami on Dec. 8, 2007, at Beeghly Center.

The Penguins were down 20-8 in the first half but went on a 16-2 run and scored the final 13 points of the period to take a 24-22 lead at halftime.

YSU trailed 32-30 with 16:19 remaining before Miami went on a 17-4 run to take an insurmountable 49-34 lead with 9:11 left.

Ashley Pendleton led the Penguins with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Series With Miami

Sunday will be the seventh meeting all-time between Youngstown State and Miami. The RedHawks won the first two meetings and the past two meetings. The teams played four times from 1976 to 1979, then took a 27-year break before playing again in 2006. The Penguins have scored at least 69 points in their two victories and been held to 60 points or fewer in all four of their losses. Miami beat YSU 69-51 the last time the two teams played in Oxford.

First 3-0 Start Since 1999-2000

Youngstown State is 3-0 for the first time since the 1999-2000 season with its wins over Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Bryant. The last time YSU started a season with two wins on the road was 1996-97. The Penguins have been 3-0 nine times in their 38 seasons. They've gone on to 4-0 five times.

Brown Adds to Early Season Honors

YSU's Brandi Brown was named the Horizon League Co-Player of the Week and the CollegeSportsMadness.com High-Major Player of the Week on Nov. 19.

Brown averaged 25 points and 17 rebounds in leading the Penguins to victories over Buffalo and Bryant during the week of Nov. 12-18. She registered game highs of 24 points and 15 rebounds at Buffalo, then added 26 points and a career-high-tying 19 rebounds against Bryant.

She has been named the Horizon League Player of the Week by CollegeSportsMadness.com twice this season. Brown is the League's Player of the Week for the fourth time in her career and for the first time since her sophomore year.

Brown and Davis Scoring in Bunches

Brandi Brown and Shar'Rae Davis have done the bulk of YSU's scoring for the past two games, and a lot of those points have come in bunches. Brown and Davis combined for 38 of YSU's 48 points in the second half against Bryant, including 12 points during a 14-0 run in the period. The pair combined to score YSU's first 25 points against Buffalo, and YSU had 30 in the period.

Brown and Davis are combining for 37.3 of YSU's 66.3 points per game, which equates to just over 56 percent. Wanda Grant and Holly Seimetz combined for a program-high 58.6 percent of YSU's points in 1980-81. The last duo to combine for more than 50 percent of YSU's points were Breanne Kenneally and Alyson Vogrin with 53.8 percent in 2000-01. Kenneally suffered a season-ending injury 12 games into that campaign.

Focusing on Defense

A large part of YSU's success in the early part of this season has been because its defense.

  • The Penguins have held their first three opponents to an average of 53 points per game. That is a 14.5-point improvement from last season.
  • YSU has held its first three opponents under 60 points for the first time since 1984-85.
  • Opponents have scored under 60 points in three straight games for the second time in the Coach Bob Boldon era and for just the second time in the last five years.
  • YSU beat Bryant 75-59 on Nov. 18 despite the Bulldogs shooting 52.2 percent. The only other time in the last 10 years that an opponent shot at least 50 percent and lost was Bucknell on Nov. 16, 2011.
  • The 29 turnovers that YSU forced against Bryant were the most since Niagara had 30 on Nov. 13, 2007.

Kids Day to Senior Day

Youngstown State and Miami will be playing in front of guests from the Knolls of Oxford and the Oxford Senior Center in Miami's Senior Day promotion on Sunday. Interestingly, the Penguins played their first two road games of the season as part of Kids Day promotions. A large portion of the 4,036 fans that watched YSU play Pittsburgh on Nov. 9 were elementary and middle-school students. A similar portion of the 1,435 fans at the YSU-Buffalo game on Nov. 13 were also school-age children.

Davis Impressing Early

Freshman Shar'Rae Davis has had a strong start to her collegiate career. In her first three games, she's averaged 15.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists. She's posted highs of 23 points, nine rebounds, nine assists and five steals. Brandi Brown was the last freshman to score at least 23 points on Dec. 5, 2009. The last freshman to record at least nine assists in a game was Lauren Branson had 13 at IPFW on Jan. 18, 2005.

Davis, Brown Receive Accolades

YSU players Shar'Rae Davis and Brandi Brown have both received several awards in the first two weeks of the season.

Brown's Honors

  • Horizon League Co-Player of the Week on Nov. 19
  • CollegeSportsMadness.com Horizon League Player of the Week on Nov. 12.
  • CollegeSportsMandess.com High-Major Player of the Week on Nov. 19.

Davis' Honors

  • Horizon League Newcomer of the Week on Nov. 12

Growth Evidenced by Turnarounds

YSU's continual growth over the last three seasons has been demonstrated so far in wins over Pittsburgh and Buffalo. YSU lost by 20 to the Panthers two years ago in head coach Bob Boldon's debut, and the Penguins lost 89-37 to Pitt in the 2009-10 season. YSU's victory 64-50 win on Nov. 9 was a 66-point turnaround from that loss in 2009-10. Further, the Guins beat Pitt and defeated a current Big East team for the first time since 1991. YSU also earned its first win over a team currently in a BCS conference since 1997. YSU's 60-50 victory over Buffalo on Nov. 13 was a 64-point turnaround from when the Bulls beat the Penguins 92-38 in 2009-10.

Brown Corrals 900th Rebound, Nears 1,500 Points

Youngstown State senior Brandi Brown became the fifth player in school history to surpass 900 career rebounds when she grabbed her 900th with 6:27 left in the game at Buffalo. Brown is currently fourth in school history with 919 career boards, trailing Wanda Grant (1,178), Dorothy Bowers (1,083) and Holly Seimetz (929). Brown would have to average just a tick under 10 rebounds per game the rest of the season to pass Grant for the career record. Brown also has 1,483 points in her career and needs 17 to be the seventh player in school history to reach 1,500. Brown would have to average about 13 points the rest of the year to pass Grant's 1,829 points for second on the career list. Bowers and Grant are the only two players to have 1,500 points and 900 rebounds in a career.

Lots of 3-Pointers

Youngstown State ranked fifth in the country last season with 9.2 3-pointers per game, and the Penguins have upped their average to 9.7 per game so far this year. They set school and Horizon League records for 3-pointers made in a season last year with 275. In fact, YSU has re-set the school record for 3-pointers made and attempted in Coach Bob Boldon's first two seasons. The Penguins have made at least 10 3-pointers in eight of their last 11 games dating back to last season.

Brown Earns Preseason Honors

YSU senior Brandi Brown was voted Preseason First-Team All-Horizon League in a poll of the conference's coaches, women's basketball SIDs and a media member from each market. Brown ranked seventh in the league in scoring and sixth in rebounding last year with 15.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. She was a second-team all-conference pick at the end of last season. Brown was also honored by CollegeSportsMadness.com. The website named her Preseason Fourth-Team All-American on the All-High Major Teams list as well as preseason first-team all-league.

Looking at the Big Picture

It's hard to ignore the improvements that the program has made in just two-plus years under head coach Bob Boldon. Right before Boldon's arrival, YSU went 0-30 in 2009-10 and lost games on average by 25.8 points. Only two Horizon League games that season had a final margin fewer than 10 points. In 2011-12, YSU's scoring margin was minus-2.9, a 22.9-point improvement from two years ago. That was the best improvement in the country. The Guins won 10 games last year – more than the previous three years combined. The Penguins are off to their first 3-0 start in 13 years this season and have beaten teams by an average of 13.3 points.

Recent Success vs. MAC

YSU has won four of its last five games against teams from the Mid-American Conference dating back to last season. YSU beat Buffalo 60-50 on Nov. 13 this season. The Penguins beat Akron, Ohio and Western Michigan while losing to Bowling Green last year. The Horizon League went 19-9 against the MAC last year.