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YSU defense stands out in opening win

Staff photo / John Vargo Youngstown State’s Mady Aulbach, center, drives between Canisius defenders A.J. Timbers, left, and Shannon Conely on Tuesday night.

YOUNGSTOWN — Only three players — McKenah Peters, Mary Dunn and Chelsea Olson — were listed as starters on the pregame press packet. Taylor Petit and Ny’Dajah Jackson, who both sat out last season due to injury and transfer, were the other two players to be named.

This is not the same Youngstown State University women’s basketball team that won 22 games and went to the WNIT last season.

It’s different, deeper, but it has the same brash defensive style that made YSU one of the best defensive teams in the Horizon League a year ago.

It didn’t change Tuesday as YSU soundly beat Canisius, 87-59, holding the Golden Griffins to 29 percent from the floor.

The Penguins (1-0) had four missed shots on a possession with less than 7 minutes remaining left in the first quarter. Olson took the ball at the top of the 3-point arc as YSU reset its offense. She then found Jackson open on the left wing. Jackson, an Oakland, California, native, drained the 3-pointer for the first points of the Penguins’ season.

Staff photo / John Vargo Youngstown State’s Ny’Dajah Jackson drives on Canisius Tuesday in an 87-59 victory as the Penguins begin the season with a decisive win. The Providence College transfer and Oakland, California, native had a game-high 22 points to lead the Penguins.

“We had a flurry of shots to start the game,” YSU coach John Barnes said. “They weren’t falling, but we were getting offensive rebounds (13 in all).”

It wasn’t the first time Olson dished an assist. Later in the second quarter, the Wisconsin native and found herself surrounded by three Canisius defenders. She grabbed the loose basketball for one of her many rebounds, hugging the leather sphere with both hands – clearing out the Golden Griffins with a couple swing of her pointy elbows.

Olson had 13 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, becoming the second YSU player to record a triple-double since Danielle Carson did so in 1986, who had six triple-doubles in her career.

YSU had 25 assists, finding the opening player at virtually every turn.

“We don’t care who gets the open shot, who scores, as long as we make the extra pass and the right play,” Olson said. “That’s what we try to do.”

The defense took over after first couple of minutes as YSU went on a 17-4 run and outscored the the Golden Griffins (0-1) after one quarter 28-14 and 50-28 at intermission.

The 5-foot-5 Jackson, a junior transfer from Providence College, was staring wide-eyed at the Canisius players coming toward her. It was similar to former San Francisco 49ers running back Roger Craig weaving through opposing offenses, leaving a massive amount of defenders left wondering in his wake.

Jackson, who had a game-high 22 points, has that similar look as she intently executed during the opening-night victory.

“It’s a lot of emotions going through because I sat out a year,” Jackson said. “It was the urge to get out there today.”

This YSU team goes from a team of nine active players to 12 on a deeper roster – one that is no longer worrying about being cautious in practice or games.

“I think we can push the ball up more,” Barnes said. “Everyone who was here saw a faster-paced game, up and down a little bit more. Last year we wanted to walk it up, save our energy.”

Saturday, YSU hosts Kent State at 1 p.m.

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