YSU women overcome slow start in 80-56 win

Special to Tribune Chronicle / Robert Hayes Sarah Cash, right, of Youngstown State drives for two of her 20 points Saturday against St. Francis.

YOUNGSTOWN — Jess Kovatch was unfazed by the stringent defense, sinking a couple of quick 3-pointers.

John Barnes had seen enough in the first two-and-a-half minutes Saturday as the Youngstown State University women’s coach called timeout, frustrated with his team’s start against St. Francis (Pa.).

No execution. Not in the right position.

“Obviously, we weren’t too sharp on what we were doing,” Barnes said. “I snapped them back into reality. We had seven days off. There shouldn’t be any excuses. We should be ready to come out ready to play. I felt they did a good job adjusting after that.”

YSU responded in an 80-56 win over St. Francis with a 17-3 run after that erased the early deficit. The Penguins (7-2), who have won three straight, shut down the Red Flash to 32 percent from the floor. It is typical of the defense YSU plays, which is limiting teams to 53 points per game.

“That gives you a good chance to win, no matter how you’re shooting the ball,” Barnes said. “That’s what we want to do.”

It was more than a gut punch delivered by YSU. Mary Dunn, a 6-foot-3 center, wouldn’t let a hustling St. Francis guard pressure her team in the frontcourt. Her picks leveled the Red Flash guard, flopping her body to the Dom Rosselli floor.

“Our post players did a great job of circling back, setting good screens,” Barnes said of Dunn, who had 13 points. “I kind of felt sorry for that girl out there because she was getting nailed out there. That allowed the point guards to come out pretty open and get us into our offense.”

Alison Smolinski saw nothing but wide-open space and the 3-point line in front of her as she launched the ball for six 3-pointers for a game-high 23 points. It’s the second straight game Smolinski has had plenty of success from long range.

“She’s got any kind of room, we want her shooting it,” Barnes said.

Mentally, the Penguins’ senior guard has to perform well. There’s no other choice, not in her mind.

“I had no other choice but to play well,” Smolinski said. “As a senior, you have to step up. It’s the last one. I have to keep reminding myself of that.”

Fellow senior Sarah Cash had a quiet 20 points, similar to her personality, shying away from the spotlight.

“As long as we win, that’s all that matters,” Cash said.

YSU’s next game is Dec. 18 at Bucknell, which beat the Penguins in Youngstown last season — dominating YSU in rebounds. The Bison’s height is going to be an issue, but is not worrying to Barnes or the Penguins.

Stick to the game plan and keep passing the ball inside to Dunn and Cash, something that worked against St. Francis — playing an inside-out game. This is a Bucknell team which lost at nationally-ranked Syracuse by 14 points.

“We have to be tougher, play harder, find a way,” Barnes said of the the Dec. 18 matchup.