YOUNGSTOWN - It seems like eons since the Jan. 19 59-41 loss to first-place Green Bay at the Beeghly Center.
Since then, the Youngstown State University women's basketball team has rolled off five straight wins and are sitting alone in second place in the Horizon League - two-and-a-half games behind Green Bay.
"I think we've bought into our defensive principals," said YSU coach Bob Boldon, whose team is 16-5, 6-2. "We've guarded pretty well, obviously not without mistakes. Kids are playing hard right now, and they're doing a really good job of playing together. I think that's been as important as anything."
This week, YSU has its biggest task ahead - a two-game road swing in Wisconsin. Thursday's game at last-place Milwaukee (5-15, 1-7) starts at 8 p.m., while Saturday's game at Green Bay (19-2, 9-0) is at 3 p.m.
"I think this is going to be a big week for us to play two teams we've played already and take the things that didn't work, watching some of our defensive breakdowns and being able to build on them," YSU senior forward Brandi Brown said.
However, one of the keys for YSU's success in its five-game streak has been junior guard Karen Flagg, who was named Horizon League Newcomer of the Week for her 17-point performance in a 58-53 win Thursday over Detroit, which gave YSU sole possession of second place in the league. Freshman guard Shar'Rae Davis won the league award twice.
"Karen is an awesome passer," Brown said. "She sees the floor really well. That's been an asset to the team and it's helped me a lot.
"She does a good job of not just looking for herself, but for others too."
YSU has been good as well. This is the most wins the Penguins have had since going to the NCAA Tournament during the 1999-2000 season with a 22-9 mark.
"It's nice, unique," Boldon said. "We try to realize we have a job to do. The nice thing about the game is there's always room for improvement. Offensively, you can shoot the ball better. You can always do a better job of taking care of the basketball. This weekend off has given us the opportunity to do both of those things.
"If we're going to continue to win games, we have to find a way to take care of the basketball and eliminate some of these crazy turnovers we're having."
No way Brown and her teammates want to be satisfied with 16 wins.
"Some of our hard work has shown in the number of wins that we have," she said. "We have improved a lot. We don't want the midway point to be the highlight of our season."
It's just a matter of playing up to their potential.
"I think we all know it's a challenge to beat Green Bay at Green Bay," Brown said. "Right now, we're focused on Milwaukee. In the back of everyone's mind, we know that we're playing Green Bay this week.
"If we do what we're supposed to do, we can not only beat Green Bay, we can beat anybody."