YSU women face challenge in IUPUI

YOUNGSTOWN — IUPUI is one of the better women’s basketball teams in the Horizon League. Youngstown State is in sixth place in the Horizon League and winner of four of its last five games.

On Thursday, YSU travels to Indianapolis to play the Jaguars to conclude the season series. IUPUI won convincly last time in Youngstown even though YSU held the Jaguars’ leading scorer, Danielle Lawrence, to four points.

Sydney Hall, the team’s other guard, went off for a career-high 24 points in a 22-point win.

“We do need to step it up on the other players,” said YSU’s Mary Dunn, who has averaged 18 points and nine rebounds in the last two games. “You can’t focus on one player. There are a lot of good players on the team.”

YSU has overcome a lot of setbacks this season, but looks to continue its solid play Thursday at 7 p.m., at IUPUI (17-5, 9-2 Horizon League).

Dunn has been in the lineup for redshirt junior Sarah Cash, who injured her ankle late in the Wright State loss. Cash plays sparingly, but will see some time. Dunn gets most of the touches in the post.

It’s been hard to see Cash out of the lineup.

“Missing her on the defensive side is almost equally or even more important to us than what she does on the offensive end,” said YSU coach John Barnes, whose team is 10-13, 6-6.

Alison Smolinski, who has been out for more than a month with a broken foot, had her protective boot off and was running and practicing. Barnes doesn’t know if she’ll be ready for this weekend.

It’s been hard for YSU to get continuity during this time, with a mainstay like Smolinski out. The Penguins started to figure out their team chemistry when she exited the lineup.

Since Dunn had played in place of Cash last season, that switch was easier. Not so much with Smolinski being out. However, it’s starting to come together.

“I think we’re believing a lot more now than we had earlier on. That’s half the battle,” Barnes said.

One big reason YSU has persevered is freshman Chelsea Olson, who won her third straight Horizon League Freshman of the Week honor. She’s averaged 10 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the past two games.

“She has to do all of those things in order for us to win,” Barnes said. “We make it clear to her that she understands we’re not winning unless you’re very aggressive offensively, unless you’re hitting the boards like you need to.

“I’m proud of how much she’s come along and the work she’s put in, just doing such a great job for us.”

Overcoming is something this YSU team has done for the last two seasons.

“We’re used to facing adversity,” Dunn said. “The more that it’s coming to us, we know how to deal with it better. That’s the biggest part.”

Thursday, the Penguins try to overcome IUPUI.