YSU prepared for third meeting with Vikings

YOUNGSTOWN – Bob Boldon vividly remembers the end of the 2011-12 season – two straight losses to Cleveland State.

The Youngstown State University women’s basketball coach recalls his team losing March 3, 2012, at the Wolstein Center, 79-69. Two days later in a Horizon League Tournament game, the Penguins kept it closer, but suffered a 59-56 setback.

“It’s all something that is fresh on our minds,” Boldon said. “Not a lot of teams get the opportunity to lose two in a row to end the season to the same team.”

Tonight, the second-seeded Penguins (21-8) have a chance to redeem last year’s setbacks in a Horizon League quarterfinal matchup against seventh-seeded Cleveland State (13-16) at the Beeghly Center.

The game tips off at 7 p.m. The winner faces the winner of tonight’s Milwaukee at Loyola game Friday at the top remaining seed, which is currently No. 20 Green Bay (26-2).

The Phoenix host eighth-seeded Valparaiso (11-19), while fourth-seeded Detroit (16-12) hosts fifth-seeded Wright State (12-17) in the other quarterfinals.

YSU, which has had more than 1,100 in attendance at the last three home games, has its best record since the 1999-2000 season when the Penguins advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

“I think the people that come to our games are passionate about our sport,” Boldon said. “They create a great inviornment. I would encourage others to come. Watching Brandi (Brown) play ball is pretty special, does a lot of things well. Across the board, we have a lot of kids that generally work hard and handle things in a very proper manner.

“I think they’re worth watching.”

For now, the Penguins have their eyes on the Vikings.

Brown might have won the Horizon League Player of the Year, but CSU’s Shalonda Winton, who averages 22.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists, could be mentioned in the same sentence as the senior.

“You’ve got to guard her and perimeter, post, the drive,” Boldon said. “In transition, you’ve got to box her out. There aren’t too many kids in our conference that do all of those things well.

“It’ll be a good challenge and we have some young ladies that are looking forward to it.”

In both games this season, Winton, Cori Coleman and Kiersten Green all scored in double figures against YSU.

YSU defeated CSU in Cleveland, 72-63, and edged the Vikings 73-69 at the Beeghly Center.

“They played us tough twice this year,” Boldon said. “We’ll be expecting a good effort. In their minds, they think they’re primed to make a tournament run. We’ll get their best effort for sure.”

Starting YSU forwards Karen Flagg and Brown are game-time decisions for tonight’s Horizon League quarterfinal matchup against CSU. Forward Heidi Schlegal, who injured her knee during the 73-69 victory on Feb. 21, is still out.

The Penguins’ strategy changes if Brown, who averaged 30.5 points per game in the two meetings with the Vikings, can’t play. Brown rolled her ankle against Detroit on Thursday and hasn’t practiced since.

Flagg, who practiced Tuesday, is coming off a hand injury.

For YSU to be successful tonight, Brown said the Penguins have to stick to basics.

“We always talk about our defensive principles, jumping to helpside,” she said. “I think that’s going to be huge (tonight) when we play. Making sure we box out and get rebounds.”