YOUNGSTOWN — Engaged in a back-and-forth battle with Green Bay, Youngstown State heated up at just the right time.
Leading by one after the first quarter, the Penguins connected on 7-of-13 treys in the second quarter to take the lead for good en route to a 67-58 win over Green Bay at the Beeghly Center on Saturday afternoon.
The win completes a homestand sweep for YSU (7-0, 4-0 Horizon League), which once again was without the services of starting forward Lilly Ritz, and also snapped a 3-game losing streak against the Phoenix (4-4, 2-2). Thursday’s victim, Milwaukee, and Green Bay were slotted second and third in the Horizon League Preseason Poll, respectively.
“It feels great. It’s a big statement, I think, for us and for the conference that we’re coming to play no matter who’s playing, who’s not playing,” senior transfer guard Megan Callahan said.
Callahan played a big part in the impressive weekend for YSU, scoring a game-high and career-high 20 points Saturday after notching what was a season-high 13 points against Milwaukee on Thursday.
Malia Magestro tallied 15 points off the bench for the Penguins, which included a 5-of-10 day from 3-point range. The five treys were a career high for the sophomore.
As a team, YSU went 15-of-33 from downtown, just one shy of tying the program record for most threes in a game.
“They were backing off of us a little bit, so I think just us all being ready to shoot really gave us momentum for the second half,” Magestro said, adding, “I think we all just feed off of each other’s energy, and that really showed today.”
The onslaught began in the second quarter.
After a Bailey Butler layup tied the game at 14 for Green Bay, Lindsey Linard connected on a second-chance bucket, and then Magestro sank a triple to grow the lead to five.
The Phoenix rallied back to within two and then three points on separate possessions, then Paige Shy sank back-to-back 3-pointers to push the advantage back out to nine. Those treys keyed a 12-2 run that also included 3-pointers from Mady Aulbach and Callahan. YSU led 37-26 at halftime.
Aulbach finished with eight points and an impressive 12 rebounds.
“She’s a bulldog,” Callahan said of Aulbach. “She works her butt off every single game. I mean, she’s the shortest player on our team, and she had 12 rebounds. That just shows a lot.”
Green Bay, however, didn’t go away without a fight.
The Phoenix opened the third quarter with their own barrage from deep, connecting on their first five 3-point shots to rally back to within four, 47-43.
That was as close as they got, however, as Callahan drilled back-to-back threes to push the lead back out to 10 before YSU settled for a 53-47 advantage going into the fourth.
“That’s something we definitely talked about at halftime that (Green Bay wasn’t) going to let down, they’re not going to stop playing. They’re going to come out hard,” Callahan said. “I think we just had to come together and continue the energy and build off of each other.”
In the fourth quarter, Callahan and Chelsea Olson used aggressive drives to the basket to keep Green Bay at arm’s reach, as the Phoenix were never within a single possession again.
Olson scored four of her five points in the period, while Callahan notched six of her 20.
The Penguins now turn their attention back to nonconference play. YSU visits Canisius on Wednesday night for the first of four nonleague games before Horizon League play resumes with a Dec. 30 game against Purdue Fort Wayne.
“We’re excited to have a little break until conference (play) again,” YSU head coach John Barnes said. “We really wanted this one because now we’re still undefeated in conference and we have some time to get healthy, get some players back and kind of revamp things back to our old ways a little bit.”