YSU starts Horizon League play off right

Tribune Chronicle / Marc Weems YSU’s Sarah Cash, left, looks to pass while being guarded by Detroit Mercy’s Brianne Cohen on Thursday. The Penguins defeated Detroit Mercy, 76-59.

YOUNGSTOWN — In the first game of Horizon League play, Youngstown State University women’s basketball stepped its game up.

The Penguins got the win over Detroit Mercy, 76-59.

Early on, YSU (5-7, 1-0 HL) used the long ball to get going. YSU used the 3-pointer to its advantage in the first quarter as the Penguins hit six in the quarter. It led Detroit Mercy, 25-15, after one quarter.

“Sometimes you worry a little bit about the break. It felt like we were making strides and you wonder if you are going to lose it,” YSU coach John Barnes said. “I gave them an extra day at home. That was a little bit scary.”

Part of YSU’s hot start was because of shooting guard Nikki Arbanas. She hit two of her game-high five 3-pointers in the first quarter.

Tribune Chronicle / Marc Weems Detroit Mercy’s Zoey Oatis, left, takes a shot during its game against Youngstown State on Thursday.

Besides hot shooting, YSU’s defense had Detroit Mercy (0-12, 0-1 HL) flustered as it shot just 1-of-12 from the 3-point line in the first half. YSU led 43-26 at the half.

“They (Detroit Mercy) had a really tough schedule, so we didn’t take that for granted. We were very selective and patient on the offensive end,” Arbanas said. “I think we did a good job of keeping everyone from getting nervous and just continuing to stay aggressive.”

YSU assisted on 12 of its 15 made first-half shots.

Detroit Mercy couldn’t find the bottom of the bucket from the 3-point line in the second half either. Despite that, the Titans got close midway through the third quarter.

YSU went up 55-35 with 6:21 in the quarter before Detroit Mercy went on an 8-2 run to get as close as 55-43. YSU countered with a 7-0 run of its own.

“I think they are very unselfish,” Barnes said. “I think it took some time to relearn what we were doing before. We are getting more comfortable out there.”

YSU assisted on 18 of its 25 made shots.

Despite a great win, YSU struggled at the free-throw line going 14-of-23.

A big positive for the Titans was Zoey Oatis, who finished 8-of-8 from the field for 22 points. Brianne Cohen had 14 points with seven rebounds.

Freshmen Chelsea Olson came up big for the Penguins as she had a career-high 16 points with a career-high six rebounds.

“It was really important to get this first win for our confidence level,” Olson said. “We focus on defense in practice a lot. Ultimately, defense wins games and getting stops on defense will lead to easier shots on defense.”

YSU has a quick turnaround as it now faces Oakland University on Saturday at 1 p.m.