YOUNGSTOWN - It wasn't the start the Youngstown State University women's basketball team or first-year coach John Barnes envisioned down two major pieces of the puzzle to this season.
However, after Saturday's 85-66 loss to VCU, Barnes said his team must find ways to fill holes in their team.
Sophomore guard Shar'Rae Davis, who was on last year's Horizon League All-Newcomer team, is currently out.
"She right now is having some medical issues, not going into too much depth," Barnes said. "We're hoping to have her back, probably January. That's not even a for sure, even at that point. She's doing everything she can to get back as quickly as she can."
It's a detrimental loss to the Penguins, who host Buffalo tonight at 7:05 p.m.
"It's pretty big," Barnes said. "She's a pretty good player. She was in our starting lineup up until she was feeling ill. We're going through some growing pains, trying to get some different options in there to see where we can maneuver people into different positions and fill that gap."
Senior guard Monica Touvelle, a Boardman High School product, is out as well. Against VCU, the Penguins were a paltry 1 of 15 from 3-point range.
"She's got some health issues," Barnes said. "We're hoping to have her back in the next three to four weeks, hopefully. We're not sure, it's going to depend on how she heals up. That would help tremendously against a 2-3 zone, arguably our best 3-point shooter. Not having her, that hurt. That led to our struggles from the 3, also."
Despite the setbacks, YSU plans to trudge on. If nothing else, the Penguins (0-1) have established their low-post presence. Junior Heidi Schlegel (6-foot forward) and junior transfer Latisha Walker (6-2 forward) scored a combined 45 points on 16 of 35 from the floor. Schlegel led all scorers with 27 points.
"I thought Heidi and Tish played really well offensively," Barnes said.
Walker, who sat out last season after transferring from Xavier University, added 18.
"I was really excited to go out there and play," Walker said. "I didn't know what kind of numbers I was going to put up. I knew I was going to do well because I was willing to work hard and willing to do what I needed to do."
Aside from the final result on Saturday, Barnes was happy with his team's defense.
"I was pretty happy with our defense, really," he said. "We held them to 38 percent. We were turning the ball over quite a bit and they were getting transition lay-ups. Also, offensive rebounds, putbacks. With all of that going on and still hold them to 38 percent was pretty good."
Now, the Penguins face a Buffalo team led by all Mid-American Conference player and 5-10 sophomore guard Mackenzie Loesing, who led the Bulls with 16 points in Friday's win against Binghamton.
"Buffalo runs a 1-2-2, also," Barnes said. "They're not quite as long VCU is, but they're very talented."
It'll be tough moving forward without Touvelle and Davis, but Barnes said YSU will find a way.
"With the VCU game, we turned the ball over 27 times," he said. "You can't do that and expect to win. We're trying to minimize what we're trying to tell the team to think about, worry about. Now, it's taking care of the basketball and boxing out. Those two things, even with the injuries, we've got a chance to win the game or even get close."