Penguins to Open Tournament Versus Ninth-Seeded Valparaiso on Friday

Jenna Hirsch (Photo by Jay Metzger, Hawaii Media Source)
Jenna Hirsch (Photo by Jay Metzger, Hawaii Media Source)

Scouting Report

  • Youngstown State will play Valparaiso in the first round of the 2017 Little Caesar's Horizon League Women's Basketball Championship on Friday at 2:30 p.m. at Joe Louis Arena. The game will be broadcast live on 1390 WNIO, iHeartRadio, ESPN3 and WatchESPN.
  • YSU enters the tournament as the No. 8 seed while the Crusaders are the No. 9 seed. YSU and Valparaiso split the regular season series with each team winning on its home floor. The Penguins won 76-70 on Jan. 14 at Beeghly Center, and the Crusaders won 77-60 on Feb. 2 at the ARC. Of note, Mary Dunn missed the game at Valpo due to an ankle injury.
  • YSU has won a game in the Horizon League Tournament in each of the past four seasons. The Penguins had one victory total in the tournament from 2001-02 through 2011-12.
  • YSU has never played Valparaiso in the Horizon League Tournament, but the teams played twice in the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament championship game. The Penguins prevailed in both meetings, winning 78-69 in 1998 and 73-57 in 2000.
  • YSU finished an injury-plagued regular season with a 9-20 overall record and a 5-13 mark in conference play. The Penguins lost their last three games of the regular season, including an 83-67 decision to Detroit Mercy in the finale on Saturday.
  • In YSU's 13 Horizon League losses, the score was within four points in the fourth period in eight of them. YSU is 2-6 in games decided by five points or fewer this season after going 7-1 in such contests last season.
  • YSU finished the regular season with 246 3-pointers for an average of 8.5 per game. The Penguins are on track to lead the Horizon League in 3-pointers per game for the third straight season. YSU is one of 13 teams in the country to make at least 200 3-pointers in each of the last seven seasons.
  • Mary Dunn was named the Horizon League Freshman of the Week four times during the regular season. A top candidate to be named the Horizon League Freshman of the Year, she leads all league freshmen in scoring, field-goal percentage and blocks.
  • Alison Smolinski leads the Horizon League with 79 total 3-pointers and 2.9 3s per game. She has jumped into the all-league conversation by averaging 15.6 points in HL play, which ranks seventh in the conference. She made 14 more 3s in league play than any other player, and she has made 13 more triples than any other player in the country since Jan. 14.
  • With season-ending injuries to three primary players, YSU has had 14 different starting lineups in 29 games this season. Indiya Benjamin has started all 28 games, and Jenna Hirsch is the only other Penguin with more than 20 starts (22). Thirteen different players have started at least once.

A Win Would...

  • Give YSU a win in the Horizon League Tournament for the fifth straight year.
  • Allow YSU to win its 10th game of the season.
  • Give YSU a 2-1 record against Valparaiso this season.
  • Be YSU's third versus the Crusaders all time in conference tournaments.

On This Date

  • Youngstown State is 4-7 in 11 previous contests played on March 3, and two of those games were in conference tournaments.
  • YSU beat Valparaiso 78-69 in the 1998 Mid-Continent Conference Championship game on March 3, 1998. The Penguins went on to defeat Memphis in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Seven years later, the Penguins lost 66-52 at Wright State in the Horizon League Tournament.
  • YSU set a school record by going 17-for-17 from the free-throw line against UIC on March 3, 2011, at Beeghly Center. Brandi Brown went 12-for-12 on her own and scored 35 points in that Penguins win.

Scouting Valparaiso

  • Valparaiso is the No. 9 seed in the Horizon League Tournament and enters the postseason having won three of its last five games.
  • After starting the conference season 0-10, the Crusaders went 4-4 in February.
  • Junior Dani Franklin was named Second Team All-Horizon League, and Amber Lindfors was selected to be on the All-Defensive Team.

Series with Valparaiso

  • Youngstown State is 25-16 all time against Valparaiso in a series that dates back to 1993. Both teams were in the Mid-Continent Conference from 1992-2001, and only one of the 41 meetings in the series has not been in conference play or in a conference tournament.
  • YSU has won 11 of the last 14 meetings since the start of the 2010-11 season.

This Season vs. Valpo

  • On Jan. 14 in Youngstown, Alison Smolinski scored 17 second-half points to help YSU rally for a 76-70 win at Beeghly Center. The Penguins led 19-7 in the first six minutes but went cold and trailed 35-30 at halftime. Mary Dunn added 18 points.
  • At the ARC on Feb. 2, Amber Lindfors took advantage of an injured Dunn to have career highs of 22 points and 11 rebounds. Valpo started the second period on a 15-2 run and led by double digits for most of the rest of the game.

Recapping Detroit Mercy

  • Detroit Mercy outscored YSU by 12 over the final 9:20 of the game to pull away for an 83-67 victory in the regular-season finale.
  • The Titans led for more than 36 minutes, but the Penguins trailed just 53-49 with 9:26 left in the fourth period. The deficit was 69-61 with 4:30 left before Detroit Mercy went on an 8-0 run to pull away.
  • YSU celebrated Senior Day for Tamira Ford, Jenna Hirsch and Kelsea Newman. Ford and Hirsch were both in the starting lineup, and the Penguins had their 14th different combination of starters this season.
  • Indiya Benjamin had one of the best games of her career with 22 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in 32 minutes. It was her second game with 10 assists this season and the fourth of her career. She also had at least 20 points and 10 assists in the same game for the second time of her career.
  • Benjamin was one of four Penguins to finish in double figures. Alison Smolinski scored all of her 11 points in the first half, and Kelley Wright scored all of her 11 in the second half. Mary Dunn added 10 points.
  • Rosanna Reynolds had 21 points and nine rebounds, and Brianne Cohen scored 17 points to lead Detroit Mercy. Haleigh Ristovski scored all 10 of her points in the fourth period as the Titans went 11-for-13 from the field and outscored YSU 31-23.
  • YSU committed just seven turnovers, which was its fewest in a game since Jan. 16 against Cleveland State.