YSU Heads to NKU for Norse’s First D-1 Home Game

Melissa Thompson | Photo by Ron Stevens
Melissa Thompson | Photo by Ron Stevens

The Youngstown State women's basketball team will try to improve to 5-0 when it plays at Northern Kentucky in the Norse's first home game at the Division-I level on Tuesday. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at The Bank of Kentucky Center in Highland Heights, Ky. The game will be broadcast live on 570 WKBN, 570wkbn.com and iHeartRadio with Mike Pilch calling the play-by-play.

The Penguins are coming off an impressive 76-56 victory over preseason Mid-American Conference East Division favorite and 2012 WNIT participant Miami on Sunday afternoon in Oxford, Ohio. YSU shot a season-best 47.1 percent in the contest and had five players reach double figures in scoring for the first time since the finale of the 2010-11 regular season. In fact, four players scored in double figures in the second half alone as the Penguins outscored the RedHawks 51-31 in the period. Liz Hornberger made four of her career-best six 3-pointers in the second half, and Brandi Brown was 3-for-3 from the field and 5-for-5 from the free-throw line in the period. Brown finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds for her fourth consecutive double-double.

YSU is 4-0 for the first time since the 1996-97 season and is looking for its first five-game winning streak in 12 years. The Penguins are on their first four-game winning streak in five seasons, and they've already beat a BCS opponent (Pittsburgh) for the first time since 1997-98. The Penguins have held each of their first four opponents under 60 points, and they are allowing 13.7 points per game fewer (53.8 vs. 67.5) than last season.

Northern Kentucky is 0-4 in its first season at the Division I level. The members of the Atlantic Sun Conference won national titles at Division II in 2008 and 2000.

The Penguins will conclude November at home on Friday against Stony Brook at 7 p.m.

Game Recap vs. Miami (Ohio)

YSU scored 51 points on 63.6-percent shooting in the second half to defeat Miami (Ohio) 76-56 on Sunday at Millett Hall.

Liz Hornberger scored 12 of her career-high 18 points in the second half, and three other YSU players scored in double figures in the period. Brandi Brown had 18 points and 12 rebounds for her fourth straight double-double.

YSU led for about 15 minutes in the first half and started the second half on an 18-7 run to break a 25-25 halftime tie.

Quick Notes

  • YSU had five players score in double figures for the first time since March 5, 2011. That was the regular-season finale of the 2010-11 campaign.
  • The Penguins held a 40-27 edge in rebounding. That plus-13 in rebounding was YSU's best since outrebounding Akron by 21 on Dec. 21, 2007.
  • Liz Hornberger was 6-for-8 from 3-point range to set a new career high with 18 points. Her previous career high was 12 points, which she reached four times. Hornberger was 1-for-8 from 3-point range in YSU's previous game.
  • Brandi Brown scored the 1,500th point of her career on a free throw with 35.3 seconds remaining. She also moved into third place on YSU's career rebounding list with 931.
  • Hornberger also posted five assists for the second consecutive game. She has 14 assists in four games this season for an average of 3.5 per game. She averaged 1.1 assists last season.
  • Heidi Schlegel scored all 12 of her points and grabbed four rebounds in the second half. It was her first game of the season after missing the first three with a concussion.

Scouting Northern Kentucky

Northern Kentucky is in its first season as a Division I program and will be playing its first D-I home game on Tuesday. The Norse are still looking for their first win of the season. They lost 77-65 to Loyola in their last game on Wednesday. Loyola led 27-10 early, but NKU battled back and led 44-42 in the second half. The Ramblers went on a 15-0 run to gain separation. Tiara Hooper scored 22 points against Loyola and is averaging 12 points and 6.5 rebounds. Kayla Thacker is also averaging 12 points and has added three steals per game. The Norse are 52-7 all-time in The Bank of Kentucky Center and 25-2 in the building over the past two seasons.

Series With Northern Kentucky

This is the first meeting between Youngstown State and Northern Kentucky. YSU has played just one contest against a team currently in the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Penguins lost 79-67 at Stetson on Dec. 20, 2010.

First 4-0 Start Since 1996-97

  • Youngstown State is 4-0 for the first time since the 1996-97 season with its wins over Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Bryant and Miami (Ohio). The Penguins have gone on to start 5-0 five times in their first 37 seasons.
  • YSU has won its first three road games for the first time since the 1997-98 season.
  • The Penguins are on their first four-game winning streak since the 2007-08 season. YSU has won four straight games by double digits for the first time since 1997-98.

Five Score in Double Figures at Miami (Ohio)

YSU had five different players reach double figures in scoring in Sunday's win over Miami. Brandi Brown and Liz Hornberger both tied for team highs with 18 points, Heidi Schlegel and Shar'Rae Davis had 12 points apiece, and Karen Flagg finished with 10. It was the first time since March 5, 2011, that the Penguins had five players reach double figures in scoring in the same contest. Prior to that contest, YSU hadn't had five players in double figures in the same game since the 2003-04 season. Melissa Thompson and Monica Touvelle both scored in double figures in the season opener, giving the Penguins seven players who have scored at least 10 points in a game four contests into the season.

Half-Time Adjustments

With Sunday's game tied at halftime, Youngstown State shot 63.6 percent and outscored Miami (Ohio) 51-31 in the second half in the win at Millett Hall. That's not the first time this season that YSU has shown a big improvement in the second half. Despite being 4-0, YSU has held the lead at halftime just once, a 30-20 advantage at Buffalo on Nov. 13. The Penguins trailed Pittsburgh by 12 at halftime in the season opener and was tied at the break against Bryant and Miami (Ohio). The Penguins are averaging 25.75 points on 33.9 percent shooting in the first half and 43 points on 43.6 percent shooting in the second half.

Schlegel Returns to Line-Up

Redshirt sophomore forward Heidi Schlegel returned to the YSU rotation on Sunday and promptly posted 12 points, six rebounds and three steals in 23 minutes off the bench. All 12 of her points came in the second half. Schlegel missed the first three games of the season with a concussion that she suffered in a preseason scrimmage. She was YSU's second-ranked returning scorer and rebounder heading into this season. Schlegel averaged 9.7 points and 4.6 rebounds in 27 games last season.

Hornberger Growing into Role

Junior guard Liz Hornberger made 6-of-8 attempts from 3-point range for a career-best 18 points on Sunday at Miami (Ohio). Hornberger has scored at least five points in each game this season and reached double figures twice. She had reached double digits in scoring just three times in her first two seasons. Hornberger, who coach Bob Boldon praises for her basketball knowledge and leadership on the court, has also improved her distribution. Her career high for assists in a game entering this season was three. She's surpassed that three times in four games, and she's registered five in each of the past two games.

Focusing on Defense

YSU made a conscientious effort to improve its defense and rebounding through recruiting and placing a higher priority on it during preseason practices, and it is paying off in the early part of the season. Last season, YSU ranked last in the Horizon League last season in rebounding margin (minus-5.1) and field-goal percentage defense (43.0 percent) while ranking second-to-last in scoring defense (67.5 points per game). This season, the Penguins lead the league in scoring defense (53.8 points per game) and rank fourth in field-goal percentage defense (39.8 percent) and rebounding margin (plus-1.2). 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.

  • The Penguins have held four straight opponents under 60 points for the first time since the 1990-91 season.
  • YSU has held its first four opponents under 60 points for the first time since 1978-79.
  • The 29 turnovers that YSU forced against Bryant were the most since Niagara had 30 on Nov. 13, 2007.

Davis, Brown Receive Accolades

YSU players Shar'Rae Davis and Brandi Brown have both received several awards in the first three 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.
  • CollegeSportsMadness.com Horizon League Player of the Week on Nov. 26.

Davis' Honors

  • Horizon League Newcomer of the Week on Nov. 12

Brown and Davis Scoring in Bunches

Brandi Brown and Shar'Rae Davis have scored in bunches at times during the early part of this season. 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 35.5 of YSU's 68.8 points per game, which equates to just over 51 percent. 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.

Davis Impressing Early

Freshman Shar'Rae Davis has had a strong start to her collegiate career. In her first four games, she's averaged 14.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.5 steals. 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, who had 13 at IPFW on Jan. 18, 2005.

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 Surpasses 1,500 Points, 900 Rebounds

Youngstown State senior Brandi Brown became the seventh player in school history to score 1,500 career points on a free throw with 35.3 seconds left against Miami (Ohio) on Sunday. Earlier this season, she became the fifth player in school history to surpass 900 career rebounds against Buffalo. She is one of only three players in school history to score 1,500 points and grab 900 rebounds (Dorothy Bowers, Wanda Grant). Brown currently ranks third in school history with 931 career rebounds. She needs to average just under 10 rebounds per game the rest of the season to pass Grant for the career record. 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.

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 9.3 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 eight 3-pointers 26 times in the last 34 games dating back to the start of last season.