Women's Basketball Begins Horizon League Slate Saturday at Cleveland State

Natalie Myers (Photo by Jay Metzger, Hawaii Media Source)
Natalie Myers (Photo by Jay Metzger, Hawaii Media Source)

Scouting Report

  • Youngstown State ends 2016 and begins Horizon League play on Saturday as it travels to Cleveland State. Tipoff against the Vikings at the Wolstein Center is set for 1 p.m., and the game will be broadcast live on 1390 WNIO/iHeart.com and ESPN3/WatchESPN.
  • The Penguins and Vikings are both playing in their first contest since Dec. 21. Due to finals week plus the break for the holidays, YSU has played just twice since Dec. 10.
  • YSU ended its non-conference schedule with an 84-71 victory over Point Park. Mary Dunn made 10-of-12 attempts from the field en route to a career-high 21 points, and three other Penguins finished in double figures. YSU used a 14-2 run in the third period to fight off the NAIA Pioneers, who were 13-2 entering the contest.
  • Dunn shined in the non-conference season averaging 13 points per game, and she enters league play having scored at least 19 points in three of the last four contests. She is the Horizon League's freshman leader in scoring, field-goal percentage and blocks.
  • Due to early-season injuries, Youngstown State used six different starting lineups in the 11 non-conference games. Three projected starters heading into the season – Nikki Arbanas, Sarah Cash and Kelsea Newman – that accounted for 31.9 points per game, 83.8 minutes per game and 149 3-pointers last year have missed the last four games because of injuries. Arbanas and Newman are out for the season.
  • Indiya Benjamin and Jenna Hirsch are the only two players to start every game this season. Benjamin is averaging career highs of 11.2 points and 5.1 assists.

A Win Would...

  • Allow YSU to win its Horizon League opener for the fifth time in the last six years and for the fourth straight season under Coach John Barnes.
  • Be YSU's first true road victory of the season.
  • Snap a three-game losing streak to Cleveland State and a three-game skid at the Wolstein Center.

On This Date

  • Youngstown State has played four previous times on New Year's Eve and is 1-3 on the date.
  • The Penguins last played on Dec. 31 in 2011 and defeated Cleveland State 70-48 at Beeghly Center. Notably, there was a small earthquake in the Youngstown area that occurred during the game but did not cause a stoppage of play.
  • Individually, Tara Fleming blocked six shots, which is tied for the fourth-most in school history, at Xavier on Dec. 31, 2004.

Scouting Cleveland State

  • Cleveland State went 5-6 in non-league play and is coming off a 64-56 win at Bowling Green on Dec. 21. The Penguins and Vikings did not play any common opponents in the non-conference slate.
  • The Vikings return four starters and eight total letterwinners from last year's squad. The most notable returner is Ashanti Abshaw, the Horizon League Freshman of the Year last season and a preseason first-team all-conference pick this year. Cleveland State was picked to finish seventh in the league's preseason poll.
  • Abshaw leads the Vikings in scoring (17.9 ppg), rebounding (6.1 rpg) and steals (20), and she is second in the conference in scoring. Jade Ely, who made her first career start against Bowling Green, is the reigning Horizon League Player of the Week.

Series with Cleveland State

  • YSU has played Cleveland State more than any other opponent and leads the all-time series 36-30. The Vikings have won three straight contests against YSU and have taken 10 of the last 11 decisions at the Wolstein Center.

Last Year vs. Cleveland State

  • At the Wolstein Center on Jan. 16, 2016, Cleveland State outscored YSU 16-4 over the final 4:33 and held a 23-14 edge overall in the fourth period to win 75-68.
  • At Beeghly Center on Feb. 20, YSU shot just 24.6 percent from the field and committed 19 turnovers in a 53-43 loss. Cleveland State had runs of 10-0 and 11-0 in the second half and outscored YSU by 18 at the free-throw line.

Recapping Point Park

  • Youngstown State used a key 14-2 run in the third period to fight off NAIA opponent Point Park for an 84-71 win on Dec. 21 at Beeghly Center. It was the Penguins' last contest before nine-day break for the holidays.
  • With the score tied at 47 with 5:22 remaining in the third period, the Penguins scored 14 of the next 16 points to go up 61-49 and grab control of what was a close battle. YSU led by double figures for almost all of the final 12 minutes, and its lead never sank below nine.
  • Youngstown State held a narrow 38-34 advantage in the paint, but it doubled Point Park in points off turnovers (16-8) and second-chance points (19-8). YSU also had a 17-4 advantage in fast-break points and a 27-7 edge in bench points.
  • The Penguins had a season-high 10 steals, and they tied a season high with 11 3-pointers made. Alison Smolinski was the steals leader with three, and Indiya Benjamin made a team-high four 3s.
  • YSU won its 17th straight contest against non-Division I opponents dating back to 1990. The Penguins also defeated Tiffin 84-62 this season.
  • Freshman Mary Dunn scored a career-high 21 points on 10-for-12 shooting, and she was joined in double figures by Kelley Wright (15), Benjamin (14) and Jenna Hirsch. Wright's 15 points were a new career high, and Natalie Myers' nine points were the most of her career.
  • Dunn scored eight of YSU's first 10 points, and she went toe-to-toe with Point Park post Baylee Buleca, who was 12-for-15 from the field and scored 24 points.
  • Benjamin registered at least 10 assists in a game for the third time in her career. She is the first Penguin with three games of at least 10 assists since Lauren Branson had four from 2004-08.