Women's Basketball Hosts Canisius in 2015-16 Opener on Friday

Youngstown State hosts Canisius to open the 2015-16 season on Friday at Beeghly Center.
Youngstown State hosts Canisius to open the 2015-16 season on Friday at Beeghly Center.
Youngstown State vs. Canisius
Date & Time Friday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m.
Location Beeghly Center
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Scouting Report

  • The Youngstown State women;s basketball team will begin the 2015-16 season, its third under head coach John Barnes and the 41st in program history, on Friday at Beeghly Center against Canisius. Tipoff against the Golden Griffins is set for 7 p.m., and the game will be broadcast live on 570wkbn.com, ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
  • Youngstown State returns its three starting guards — Nikki Arbanas, Indiya Benjamin and Jenna Hirsch —and a total of eight letterwinners from last season's team that won 21 games and earned an at large berth to play in the Women's NIT.
  • YSU is hoping to continue on its impressive three-year stretch that has it steadily moving toward becoming a top-level mid-major program. The Penguins have won at least 21 games in two of the last three years, and they've advanced to the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament in three consecutive years.
  • Likely the biggest challenge for the Penguins in 2015-16 is replacing Heidi Schlegel and Latisha Walker, who started in the post as fifth-year seniors last year. They accounted for 28.7 points and 16.8 rebounds per game. The three true posts on the roster have a combined 519 minutes at the Division I level heading into the year.
  • John Barnes is entering his third season as Youngstown State's head coach in 2015-16. Barnes has a 36-27 record in his first two seasons for a winning percentage of .571. His 36 wins are by far the most by any YSU head coach in his or her first two seasons.

Today's Game

A Win Would...

  • Give YSU a win its season opener for the second straight season and for the third time in the last four years.
  • Give YSU a win in its home opener for the second straight season and the third time in the last four tries.
  • Improve YSU's record to 5-3 against Canisius and give the program back-to-back victories over the Golden Griffins.

On This Date

  • Youngstown State is 2-3 all time in games played on Nov. 13, and all five contests have come since 2007.
  • Four of the previous five games have been decided by between 8-10 points, including a 72-65 loss to Buffalo in 2013.
  • Interestingly, Friday's game against Canisius will be the fourth time out of six games on Nov. 13 that YSU will be playing a team from Buffalo. The Penguins have played Buffalo twice and Niagara once.

Scouting Canisius

  • Canisius returns nine letterwinners, including three of the top four scorers from its 2014-15 team that went 10-20 overall and 8-12 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
  • Senior guard Tiahana Mills was named to the Preseason All-MAAC third team. She averaged 10.5 points and led Canisius with 88 assists last year.

Series with Canisius

  • Canisius holds a 5-2 lead in the all-time series with Youngstown State that dates back to Jan. 30, 1989.
  • LAST MEETING: YSU snapped a five-game losing streak to Canisius last season on Dec. 13 with an impressive 80-48 victory at the Koessler Athletic Center. The Penguins enjoyed their largest margin of victory in a road game in nearly 14 years. Youngstown State made eight first-half 3s to build a 10-point advantage, and it outscored Canisius 41-19 in the second half.
  • YSU won the first matchup 70-54 on Jan. 30, 1989, in Youngstown. Canisius won three times in the next 13 months, and the teams didn't play again until a home-and-home series in 2008-09 and 2009-10. Canisius won both of those games handily.

YSU In Season Openers

  • Youngstown State is 22-18 all time in season openers heading into Friday's game against Canisius. The Penguins are 9-6 when they open a season at home, and they are 24-16 in their first home game all time.
  • YSU won 20 of its first 30 openers before dropping seven straight from 2005 to 2011. A 64-50 win over Pittsburgh to start the 2012-13 season ended the skid.
  • Youngstown State defeated Niagara 83-61 in the 2014-15 season opener at Beeghly Center. In her collegiate debut, Nikki Arbanas went 5-for-5 from 3-point range and scored 25 points.

Notes

Barnes Entering Third Season

  • John Barnes will be entering his third season as Youngstown State's head coach in 2015-16. Barnes has a 36-27 record in his first two seasons for a winning percentage of .571, which is tied for the second best mark in school history with Ed DiGregorio. Barnes' 36 wins are by far the most by any head coach in his or her first two seasons. DiGregorio is second with 21 wins.
  • Barnes has a career record of 192-82 as a head coach, which includes a 133-48 record over eight seasons at Division II Michigan Tech. His career winning percentage is .701.

Strong Returning Backcourt

  • After relying on solid frontcourt play that was sometimes dominant in the first two seasons under John Barnes, YSU's strength in 2015-16 could be its backcourt.
  • Of the 4,162 combined minutes played by guards last season, 3,881 – or 93.2 percent – return in 2015-16. Nikki Arbanas, Indiya Benjamin, Jenna Hirsch and Kelsea Newman all averaged more than 22 minutes per game. Those four players combined to make 196 3-pointers and average 29.6 points last season.

Replacing Schlegel and Walker

  • Likely, YSU's biggest challenge in 2015-16 will be replacing the contributions that fifth-year seniors Heidi Schlegel and Latisha Walker provided last year. They were YSU's top two scorers and top two rebounders, combining for 28.7 points and 16.8 rebound per game.

Success in the Classroom

  • For the third time in the last four years, YSU appeared in the Women's Basketball Coaches Association Academic Top 25 for having one of the top 25 grade-point averages in the country in 2014-15.
  • The Penguins posted a team GPA of 3.422 during the 2014-15 academic year, which ranked 22nd in the country. YSU was sixth on the list in 2011-12 and 17th in 2012-13. YSU is one of just 11 programs in the country to appear on the WBCA Academic Top 25 Team Honor Roll three times since 2011-12.

Offense has Flourished Under Barnes

  • YSU's offense has seen a significant uptick in the two seasons since John Barnes took over. The Penguins have posted their two highest scoring averages since 1999-2000 under Barnes, and their shooting percentages are the best since 2001-02.
  • In 2014-15, YSU posted its best marks in points per possession, scoring margin, shooting percentage and free-throw percentage since 1997-98. The Penguins set school records for assist-to-turnover ratio or fewest turnovers per game.

Five Straight Seasons with 200 3-Pointers

  • YSU made a Horizon League leading 250 3-pointers in 2014-15, and it ranked 22nd nationally with 7.8 3-pointers per game. Youngstown State is one of 18 programs in the country to have five straight seasons with at least 200 triples. Prior to starting the trend in 2010-11, the highest season total in program history was 199 in 1999-2000.
  • Youngstown State shot 34.1 percent from 3-point range in 2014-15, which ranked second in the Horizon League. That was the best mark by a YSU team since the 2004-05 squad shot 36.3 percent.

Among the Nation's Best in Free-Throw Shooting

  • Youngstown State finished last season ranked 13th in the country in free-throw percentage with a 76-percent success rate. That was the best mark at the school since the 1997-98 team shot 77.3 percent from the charity stripe. The only other time the Penguins shot at least 76 percent from the free-throw line for a season was when they made a school-record 78.2 percent of their attempts in 1984-85.

Home Court Advantage at Beeghly Center

  • YSU has done a solid job of defending its home court over the past three seasons. The Penguins are 35-13 at Beeghly Center since the start of 2012-13, including a 21-6 mark against Horizon League teams.
  • YSU has ranked second in the Horizon League in average home attendance for each of the last five years. Green Bay leads the conference in that span with an average home attendance of 2,369, and Youngstown State is second at 1,287. The next highest is Milwaukee at 683. Youngstown State had a higher average attendance than every Division I university located within 130 miles of campus in 2014-15, and it averaged more fans than Kent State and Akron combined.

A Talented Group of Freshmen

  • Youngstown State has four talented freshmen on its roster – point guard Melinda Trimmer, guard Alison Smolinski, guard/forward Jill Blacksten and forward Marissa Brown.
  • Trimmer was Ohio's Division II Co-Player of the Year as a senior, and Smolinski and Blacksten were both first-team all-state honorees and their district's player of the year. Brown was a third-team all-state selection.
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