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YSU women edge Mastodons

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes YSU’s Taylor Petit (center) and McKenah Peters (right) battle PFW’s Jaida Wolfork for a loose ball during the second half.

YOUNGSTOWN — It wasn’t pretty, but it was a tournament win — after all everyone is 0-0 once the regular season concludes.

Thursday evening, seventh-seed Youngstown State hosted 10th-seed Purdue Fort Wayne in the opening round of the Horizon League women’s basketball tournament, a team they’ve played and beat twice at home earlier this month, but the third matchup against the league-newcomer Mastodons proved to be a different challenge.

YSU’s first win over PFW was by a margin of 42 points, then 16 in the second half of their back-to-back – the winning margin on the Beeghly Center scoreboard’s Thursday evening was three points.

The Penguins won 62-59, but the final buzzer was more of a sigh of relief over anything for a YSU team that had a fend off a persistent PFW team all evening.

“My dad and my older brothers always talked about it being walked better to not play well and win then play a great game and lose, so we’re going to take that with this game,” coach John Barnes said.

“I thought Fort Wayne did a great job, they played loose, they played hard, they played great I thought.”

Like most games this season, it was the work inside of the paint that helped guide YSU to victory, with senior Mary Dunn leading the charge with her second double-double of the campaign at 26 points and 10 rebounds, along with recent league freshman of the year winner Nneka Obiazor at 20 points and six rebounds.

The Penguins fought back-and-forth all evening, but the a deciding 14-7 fourth quarter, including several stops and big buckets late by Dunn and Obiazor helped YSU close the contest out.

Purdue Fort Wayne (1-22, 1-20) shot 40 percent from long range at 8-20, being led by Rylie Parker’s 18 points, along with 4-7 three, despite normally being a 24.6 percent shooter behind the arc on the season.

“We just struggled defensively all game, it was just, we couldn’t get out to their shooters, we couldn’t contain them.” Barnes explained “We lost some communication errors, just wasn’t a great defensive performance.”

16 turnovers by YSU didn’t help anything either, an area that the Penguins have struggled with all season. Senior Chelsea Olson notched a game-high eight assists, and found ways to find her post players inside.

“I’m pretty sure they scored like 80 percent of our points tonight and we recognized that.” Olson said “We knew that going in, especially since last time we played them that’s kinda what we did, so definitely as a point guard, I recognized that and just got them the ball.”

Seeing a team a third time is always a challenge, especially when you know so much about your opponent. “I think just knowing we ‘re able to do what they do on offense and on defense.” Olson explained “I think that’s the biggest thing, you kinda have a feel of what they’re about to do or what they could do against us.”

YSU (10-7) will make the trip out to the Klotsche Center at second-seeded Milwaukee (18-6, 15-5) next Tuesday with an 8 p.m. tip-off. Youngstown State wasn’t scheduled to play the Panthers during the regular season, a team they were swept by last season. The Penguins haven’t won in Panthers territory since Sarah Cash scored 18 points in a 70-62 back on February 13th, 2016.

Olson likes the idea of playing someone that her team hasn’t seen this season “I think it’s definitely, it could be an advantage for us, it could be a disadvantage for them also because they don’t know how we play.” she explained “I think just going into practice these next few days before the game and kinda watching what they do and their film and their tendencies for their players, I think that’s going to be the most important thing for us.”

Senior McKenah Peters added eight points, with Olson scoring seven.

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