Olson paces YSU over Akron

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo YSU's Chelsea Olson, right, shoots against Akron's Kendall Miller Wednesday, on the way to a game-high 22 points.

YOUNGSTOWN — Chelsea Olson looked lost at times this season, struggling to find herself as a mainstay in the Youngstown State backcourt.

The 5-foot-9 sophomore seemed more comfortable as a wing when she flourished her freshman season for this women’s basketball team.

It changed dramatically Wednesday as YSU dominated previously-unbeaten Akron at the Beeghly Center, 72-61.

“It’s still an adjustment for me,” said Olson, who had a game-high 22 points. “I have to understand I’m my biggest critic sometimes. I have to step back and realize I’m playing a whole new position. It’ll come eventually.”

Olson rose up with 5 minutes left in the third quarter, amid an 18-0 Penguin run to end a 10-minute stretch where YSU (5-2) outscored Akron (3-1) 22-7. The Wisconsin native used her long arms and swatted away a shot by Akron’s Shayna Harmon. Harmon was one of three Zips players in double figures with 12 points. Haliegh Reinoehl had 18, while Caitlin Vari added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Austintown Fitch graduate Megan Sefcik, who came into Wednesday’s game with a 21-point average, was YSU’s focal point. Penguins sophomore guard McKenah Peters shadowed the former Falcons standout and limited her to seven points on 2 of 8 shooting and 1 of 4 from 3-point range. Sefcik averaged five triples a game coming into Wednesday’s contest.

Akron shot 1 of 10 from the floor and 1 of 5 from 3 in the third quarter.

“McKenah did a great job on a great player,” said Olson, whose team held opponents to 55 points a game prior to Wednesday. “Our defense definitely fueled our offense. We’re big on defense, so it was really important.”

Barnes praised his team for limiting their turnovers to three, after committing 11 in the first half. Most of the second-half miscues came late in the game.

The defense was set, so much that Sefcik couldn’t get the long outlet pass for a quick basket early on, holding the Fitch graduate to two points at halftime. Barnes said his coaches, John Nicolais, Andy Crane and Courtney Davidson, prepared the Penguins to take away Akron’s quick-strike ability.

Peters said she her teammates helped her guard Sefcik, limiting her 3-point attempts. The YSU sophomore emphasized she was doing her job.

YSU’s posts Mary Dunn and Sarah Cash combined for 26 points. Dunn had 15 points and nine rebounds, while Cash added 11 points. Guard Melinda Trimmer had 14 points off the bench, one of the better games of her career as the Penguins shot 25 of 53 from the floor and 10 of 24 from 3, much improved from previous appearances.

“It felt good and hopefully we can build off of that,” Trimmer said. “It was definitely nice to see some shots fall.”

Peters and Trimmer celebrated late in the fourth quarter on the Dom Rosselli floor, knowing the previous two-game losing streak and last Friday’s Yale loss, in which the Penguins squandered a double-figure lead, is long gone.

“Now we’re back on a high,” Peters said. “We have to stay humble, get to work (today) and be ready for Canisius on Saturday.”

Olson had a flashback of her offensive self, one that earned all-freshman Horizon League honors last season. It’s something Barnes is pleased to see.

Olson was shooting less than 30 percent from the floor and 19 percent from 3 coming into Wednesday’s game. She was perfect from the floor, 3-point line and foul line at halftime, finally missing a 3 with 3:57 left in the third quarter.

“She was struggling,” Barnes said. “When you’re not shooting as well as you like you start thinking about it. She obviously didn’t let it bother her. She played a great game.

“I think we saw last year’s Chelsea tonight. I think she’ll build on it.”