YSU Starts Second Half of League play Saturday at Oakland

YSU Starts Second Half of League play Saturday at Oakland
Youngstown State at Oakland
Date & Time Saturday, Feb. 8, at 2 p.m.
Location Athletics O'Rena (Rochester, Mich.)
Radio 570 WKBN | iHeartRadio
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The Youngstown State women's basketball team will begin its second swing through the Horizon League as it travels to Oakland for a contest on Saturday at 2 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on 570 WKBN, iHeartRadio and the Horizon League Network.

The Penguins finished the first half of conference play in a three-way tie atop the standings with Green Bay and Wright State at 6-2. YSU, which was 4-9 in non-conference games, won its first six league games before dropping road contests at Cleveland State and Wright State to start February. The 6-2 start matches last season for the best start ever in Horizon League play.

The Penguins led by seven in the first half in Wednesday's loss to the Raiders before Wright State shot 51 percent in the second half to outscore YSU 48-35 in the period. The Raiders were 14-for-28 from 3-point range against Youngstown State, which was among the nation's leaders in 3-point field goal defense entering the contest. The Penguins held an edge in the frontcourt as starting posts Heidi Schlegel and Latisha Walker both scored 16 points, but YSU's starting backcourt combined for 20 points. Wright State went with a smaller lineup with four starting guards, and Kim Demmings finished with 28 points while Ivory James had 21.

Schlegel ranks third in the Horizon League with 19.5 points per game and has moved up to fifth in rebounding as she's posted double-doubles in five conference games. The Penguins are balanced after Schlegel with five other players averaging between seven and 10 points. YSU has made at least seven 3-pointers in each of its conference games, and seniors Liz Hornberger and Monica Touvelle are tied for second in school history with 168 career 3-pointers apiece.

Oakland is 9-13 overall and 4-5 in Horizon League play after beating Milwaukee on Thursday evening. The Golden Grizzlies, in their first season in the conference, scored 56 points in the second half and was plus-22 in rebounding against the Panthers. YSU beat Oakland 79-64 two weeks ago at Beeghly Center.

Youngstown State will return home to face Valparaiso on Feb. 15 at 4:35 p.m.

Top Story Lines

  • Youngstown State finished the first half of Horizon League play at 6-2, matching last year's record for the best start in 13 seasons in the conference.
  • YSU has scored at least 80 points in three straight games for the first time since 2000. The Guins have 20 assists in back-to-back games for the first time as a Horizon League team.
  • YSU started the season 1-6 but has gone 9-5 since. The uptick coincides with Jenna Hirsch moving into the starting lineup and seniors Monica Touvelle and Melissa Thompson recovering from early injuries.
  • Youngstown State went 23-10 last season, its best record since 1997-98. The Penguins finished second in the Horizon League, played in the conference tournament semifinals and won a game in the WNIT.

Scouting Oakland

Oakland is 9-13 overall and 4-5 in its first season of Horizon League play. The Golden Grizzlies snapped a three-game losing skid by rallying for an 80-67 win over Milwaukee on Thursday. Oakland outscored UWM 56-32 in the second half while grabbing 59 rebounds, the most by a Horizon League team this season.

Oakland, which will be playing its third game in five days, ranks third in the league in scoring defense and leads the circuit in blocks. Bethany Watterworth is averaging 20.1 points in league play, and she's one of four OU players averaging double figures.

Last Time vs. Oakland

Youngstown State used key runs at the start and finish to outlast Oakland 79-64 on Jan. 25 at Beeghly Center. The Penguins scored 18 of the first 20 points and had a 9-2 run to finish out the game after Oakland had pulled to within eight points with 2:18 remaining.

YSU's starters combined for 70 of its 79 points, and Heidi Schlegel scored a game-high 25 points. Bethany Watterworth had 21 for Oakland, which went more than 11 minutes without a field goal in the first half.

Series with Oakland

Oakland leads the all-time series 6-4 against Youngstown State. The Penguins won the first three meetings in 1999 and 2000, but the Golden Grizzlies won six straight before YSU won 79-64 at Beeghly Center on Jan. 25.

The teams were both in the Mid-Continent Conference from 1998-2001.

Recapping Wright State

Wright State shot 51.4 percent in the second half and was 14-for-28 on 3-point attempts to defeat Youngstown State 93-81 on Wednesday afternoon at the Nutter Center.

Wright State's Kim Demmings scored a game-high 28 points, and she had 12 points in the first six minutes of the second half as WSU turned a one-point halftime deficit into a 64-56 lead with 13:56 remaining. YSU trimmed the deficit to four twice, the last time with 7:56 left, but the Raiders went an 11-2 run over the next three minutes.

Heidi Schlegel had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds while Latisha Walker scored 16 points with nine rebounds for YSU. Kelsea Newman added 15 points off the bench.

Game Full of Runs

The game between YSU and Wright State was full of scoring runs. The Penguins scored the first five points of the game, Wright State scored the next seven, and YSU ran off five more to go up 10-7. Wright State then went on a 15-4 run to take its largest lead of the half at 22-14. YSU later scored 10 straight points to go ahead 29-26, and a 9-2 Penguins run put them ahead 41-34 with 2:34 left before halftime. Wright State answered with an 11-4 spurt to get within one. An 11-3 run in the first five minutes of the second half put the Raiders ahead 61-53, and an 11-2 run later in the period allowed Wright State to pull away.

Bench's Best Scoring Game

Youngstown State got its most productive game from its reserves against Wright State. The six players off the bench combined for 29 points in 61 minutes. Kelsea Newman was the star of the group with 15 points in 19 minutes, and Melissa Thompson and Monica Touvelle both had six points. Taylor Hvisdak added two points in the final two minutes. Youngstown State has gotten at least 20 points from its bench in five of the last six games. That happened just three times in the first 15 contests of the season.

Odds & Ends

Liz Hornberger set a new career high with eight assists while committing just two turnovers... Melissa Thompson matched her career high with six assists, and she did not have a turnover... The rest of the team combined for eight assists 16 turnovers... Karen Flagg surpassed 400 career points and got her 50th steal... Wright State, which was second in the country in turnover margin entering the contest, was plus-nine against YSU... That resulted in a 26-16 edge in points off turnovers... The 93 points were the most allowed by YSU since Saint Francis U scored 94 on Dec. 17, 2009... It was the most YSU points in a loss since 87 in double-overtime loss to Milwaukee... The last time YSU scored at least 81 points in a regulation loss was a 95-88 setback at Bowling Green on Nov. 18, 2000... The two teams combined to go 28-for-29 at the free-throw line with the lone miss coming with 17 seconds left in the first half.

Hoping Stout Defense Returns

  • Youngstown State played some if its best defense of the season to start Horizon League play when it started 6-0. The Penguins were holding league opponents to 61.7 points per game and 36 percent shooting through six games, both of which were leading the conference at that point. Cleveland State and Wright State, who beat YSU, combined to average 88.5 points and shoot 42.7 percent in the last two games.
  • YSU is 6-0 when holding opponents under 65 points and 7-0 when opponents shoot under 37.5 percent this season

3-Pointers Still Key to Offense

  • Youngstown State's offense was built around 3-point shooting the last three seasons, and first-year head coach John Barnes was quick to assure that, while he was going to emphasize the post more, the 3 was still going to be a big part of the offense.
  • The Penguins have really been zoned in from distance in league play. They've averaged a conference-best 9.6 3-pointers per game in league play while shooting at a 40.1-percent clip, which also leads the conference.
  • YSU made at least 11 3-pointers in the final three games of its four-game home stand to end January, and it made 10 3-pointers at Wright State on Wednesday. The Guins have made at least seven triples in all eight conference contests.
  • Only four teams in the country made more 3-pointers in the previous two seasons than YSU. The Penguins are 45th nationally in 3-pointers per game this season, but their 3-point shooting percentage is actually the highest its been since 2004-05.

Hornberger, Touvelle in 3-Pointer Race

  • YSU seniors Liz Hornberger and Monica Touvelle both have a chance to break the school's record for career 3-pointers. They are tied for second place on the career chart with 168 apiece. If the Penguins played only the nine remaining games they are guaranteed, the pair would have to average 3.4 3-pointers per game to tie Dianne Rappach's mark of 198.
  • Hornberger has attempted 508 3-pointers, which is the second-most in school history. Touvelle is fourth at 462. Rappach also holds the attempts record with 525.
  • Hornberger and Touvelle have combined for 336 triples in their careers. Prior to them, Shannon Beach and Caroline McCombs had the most combined 3-pointers by a duo in the same YSU class at 292.

Offense Has Improved as Season Progresses

  • YSU's offense has really been in high gear since the start of January. In the nine games of 2014, the Penguins are averaging 73.4 points and shooting 42.8 percent overall and 38.5 percent from 3-point range. The Penguins shot 33 percent overall and 22.8 percent from the arc in five games in November and have had improved steadily since.
  • YSU's average of 69.0 points per game is its highest since 1999-00 (74.1 ppg), and its .396 shooting percentage is the highest since 2004-05 (.397). YSU has upped its scoring by 5.7 points per game in 2013-14 despite losing two of its top three scorers from last year.

Top Rebounding YSU Team in 18 Years

  • Youngstown State is averaging 40.8 rebounds per game this season, which is the most by a Penguins team since 1995-96. YSU averaged just 34 rebounds last year and had its lowest rebounding average in school history just three years ago.
  • The Penguins have held the rebounding edge in 13 of their 21 games this season, and they are 9-4 in those contests. They had the edge just 13 times in 33 games last season and nine times combined the previous two seasons combined.

Trimming Down Turnovers

  • Youngstown State has done a good job of trimming down its turnovers in league play. The Penguins committed fewer than 15 turnovers four straight games prior to committing 18 at Wright State.
  • YSU committed an average of 18.4 turnovers during league play and turned the ball over at least 15 times in nine of the 13 games. The average is down to 14.9 in league play.

Schlegel Emerges as One of League's Top Scorers

  • One of the biggest questions entering the 2013-14 season was who was going to replace 2013 Horizon League Player of the Year Brandi Brown in the scoring column. Heidi Schlegel has answered that pretty clearly.
  • Schlegel is averaging 19.5 points with a total of 409 in 21 games. That is the same total Brown had at this juncture last season.
  • Schlegel ranks third in the Horizon League in scoring. She has already posted the highest scoring (409) and rebounding (167) totals of her career, surpassing the 261 points and 123 rebounds she had as a redshirt freshman.
  • Schlegel has 12 20-point efforts in YSU's 21 games. The Wapakoneta, Ohio, native had eclipsed 20 points just once in 56 games coming into this season, and she scored more than 15 points just once last season.
  • Schlegel was named the Horizon League Female Scholar Athlete of the Month for December. She averaged 17.6 points and 7.0 rebounds during the month and carries a 3.74 GPA as a middle-childhood education major. She had a 4.0 GPA in the fall.