YSU solid in season’s 2nd half

DETROIT — Green Bay coach Kevin Borseth shook hands with one of his former assistant coaches after Monday’s Horizon League women’s basketball tournament semifinal at Little Caesars Arena.

John Barnes spent a season with Borseth and the Phoenix, ranked No. 21 in the nation, before taking his current position as Youngstown State’s head coach.

Borseth has an impressive resume in his own right, with numerous Horizon League championships and NCAA Tournament appearances. Even though YSU lost, 66-45, to the Phoenix on Monday, Borseth couldn’t help but be impressed by a Penguins team that won 10 of its last 13.

YSU started the season 2-7 and was 2-5 to begin Horizon League play, hovering around the basement of the league. The season looked bleak. Then, there was the second half of the season.

“I told John after the game, where they were at the beginning of the year to where they are right now it’s just unbelievable,” Borseth said. “They have a lot of promise.”

Even though the Penguins fell to 0-5 in the Horizon League semifinal round, this YSU team has the all-time 3-point leaders in senior Indiya Benjamin and redshirt junior Nikki Arbanas. Both are over 200 in their careers with Benjamin in the lead by one.

Most of this team returns for next season, in addition to some talented recruits signed in November.

That aside, sophomore post Mary Dunn and Benjamin knew they had to change things when this team was 6-12 and on a four-game losing streak in mid-January.

“We noticed what was happening wasn’t right and we needed to change it,” Dunn said. “We started working together well. We never gave up, even the seniors working to the end. Together, we can do a lot of stuff and we realize that.”

“We continue to find a way to get it done,” Benjamin said. “It’s not the exact answer on how we turned it around. We knuckled down together, put our heads together and continue to find a way.”

This team never gave up, even down by 20 to Green Bay late in the game. This was a resilient YSU team, still cheering on their teammates on the floor.

Barnes cleared his bench with about 3 minutes left and gave those players some time on the floor.

Senior Morgan Olson hit a 3-pointer with 50 seconds left. Her teammates stood and cheered as Barnes was still coaching as if it were a tie game.

That’s what he expects from his players, both on and off the floor.

“You can’t ask for better kids,” he said. “They not only work their butts off on the court, but we have a 3.75 grade point average as a team. To win a lot of games and do well in school, these kids are going to graduate and get great jobs.

“Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about. Not all college programs are like that. I’m happy our kids take the classroom very seriously and do well in there too.”

The season may not be over as YSU is looking at a possible bid to the Women’s Basketball Invitational, a tournament the Penguins were in two seasons ago.