YSU women to play in WBI

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Youngstown State’s Sarah Cash takes a blow to the head by Milwaukee’s Steph Kostowicz during this March 4 Horizon League quarterfinal victory in Detroit. YSU’s Indiya Benjamin (3) looks on. Milwaukee’s Jenny Linder, left, also is pictured. The YSU women were selected to play in the Women’s Basketball Invitational on Monday night.

John Barnes was trying to sleep Monday night, but had to take one more call.

Some local reporter attempted to pry information from Youngstown State University women’s basketball coach.

Nothing scandalous, just some quick-hitting information on the 19-11 Binghamton Bearcats, members of the America East Conference. Two seasons ago, Stony Brook, another America East team, lost at YSU to start the Women’s Basketball Invitational — something the Penguins are back in this season.

The 16-15 Penguins host Binghamton at 7 p.m., in a first-round WBI matchup. The winner of Wednesday’s game plays Sunday (or next Monday) against Thursday’s Northeastern-Yale winner at a site to be determined.

Barnes just knew his opponent late Monday and wanted a fresh start today.

He did know the team had a guard who averaged 20 points a game.

Imani Watkins leads the Bearcats and has 70 steals and 99 assists, but also has 120 turnovers.

“She’s going to be a focal point of ours,” Barnes said.

Indiya Benjamin is YSU’s senior starter at point guard, along with Morgan Olson coming off the bench. Kelley Wright has a broke collarbone suffered against Cleveland State in the regular-season finale.

The rest of the team comes back.

This is the tournament in which YSU made the semifinals two seasons ago.

More practice and game action for these young Penguins.

It’s something Barnes, whose team lost in the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament, hopes pays off next season.

“If we prepared hard, play well and win a couple of games, it sets you up for next year’s conference tournament,” he said. “Hopefully if we do well, tournaments beyond that.”

For now, Barnes has as much rest as he can get.

He’s in his office early, trying to see as much as he can on Binghamton — trying to get as much information to his players before today’s 1 p.m., practice.

It’s like a student cramming for a final exam.

“Still trying to learn as much as I can,” Barnes said.