Beth Dilling's two free throws gave Loyola of Chicago a 58-57 win.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Youngstown State University women's basketball team dropped a heartbreaker Saturday night at Beeghly Center.
The Penguins had to watch as senior Beth Dilling made two free throws for Loyola of Chicago with no time remaining in the game, to give the Ramblers a come-from-behind 58-57 Horizon League victory.
The Penguins held a five-point lead, 56-51, with 1:45 remaining, but saw that lead dwindle quickly to two points in the final seconds.
The Penguins fouled Ciara Henderson with 3.3 seconds remaining, and the freshman made her first shot but missed her second; and Dilling out-battled the Penguins for the rebound and was fouled as time expired.
The rebound: "We get the rebound, we win," said YSU coach Ed DiGregorio. "We had position and we didn't get it. You have to get the rebound in that situation and we didn't."
Overall, the Penguins (7-11, 4-4) played a good game, a far cry from the two teams' first meeting in Chicago when the Penguins fell behind 48-27 at halftime and were routed 81-68.
"I told them after the game that they proved they can play with anybody in this league tonight, but they have to go out and continue to play like that," DiGregorio said.
"The loss really hurt because if we win we are tied with them for third place, and they still have a big road stretch ahead of them," DiGregorio said. "That was our game to win and we just gave it to them."
YSU leaders: Senior Jen Horner and sophomore Heather Harris were the spark for the Penguins, as each finished with 15 points, while Horner added nine rebounds and Harris eight.
"Horner has played outstanding for us all season long. She's been the most consistent player we've had this year," added DiGregorio.
Dilling was the overall star for the Ramblers, leading them with 18 points, while Henderson added 12 and Jenetria Harden added 13.
The Penguins shot just 38.6 percent from the field, while Loyola (12-7, 6-2) was only 33.9 percent. The Penguins made two more field goals, 22-20, but the Ramblers made five more free throws.
YSU leads: After battling to a halftime deadlock, YSU came out and scored the first five points of the second half to take a 29-24 lead, which they never relinquished until the game ended.
The Penguins led by as many as 10 points, 41-31, with 12:19 remaining, but watched the Ramblers cut away and pull within one, 41-40, with 8:42 remaining.
The Penguins then pulled back to a 52-45 lead, and held a seven-point advantage, 56-49, with two minutes remaining.
"It's hard to believe that we didn't get a foul in those final seconds because they were behind and had to foul, but nothing went our way," DiGregorio said.
First half: The Penguins and Ramblers battled throughout the entire first half, as there were four lead changes and the contest was tied twice, including at halftime 24-24.
Neither team shot well in the half as the Penguins made nine of 25 for 36 percent and the Ramblers were nine of 29 or 31 percent.
YSU started slowly, connecting on just two of its first 13 shots from the field, but both were 3-point goals and the Penguins still only trailed 10-7 with 13:46 remaining.
Horner canned a pair of buckets as YSU regained the lead, 11-10, and then senior Monica Vicarel came in and hit on back-to-back 3-point shots as the Penguins pulled back on top 17-15.
The contest was tied at 17-17 before YSU pulled out to a 22-17 margin with 5:25 remaining. The Penguins scored just one more bucket over those final five minutes, and the Ramblers came back to tie the contest on a 3-point shot by Henderson with 22 seconds remaining.
The Penguins will play their third consecutive home contest on Monday when they play host to Illinois-Chicago at 7 p.m. at Beeghly. The Penguins defeated the Flames 64-56 in their first meeting in Chicago on Jan. 17.