YSU women’s team snaps skid against Kent State
By DAN HINER
For the first time since 2001, the Youngstown State University women’s basketball team defeated Kent State at Beeghly Center.
Tough defense and crisp passing from the from starting guards Indiya Benjamin and Nikki Arbanas led the Penguins to Saturday’s 91-61 triumph.
YSU finished with 29 assists, and Benjamin’s 15 assists is the third-highest total by a Penguin in a single game.
“It’s crazy, she really got a knack for finding the open person, and she likes the transition game—to be able to push it up and get into those seams and make things happen,” YSU head coach John Barnes said. “So great job by her, and we need that from her.
“When she’s playing well, we’re playing well. When she’s not we tend to struggle,” Barnes said.
YSU (7-1) got off to a strong start offensively for one of the first time all season. Guards Alison Smolinski and Arbanas benefited from Benjamin’s passing. Smolinski and Arbanas combined to shoot 13-23 on their 3-pointers. Smolinski finished with a career-high 22 points and Arbanas scored with 21.
“Shooters always like when the other team plays zone because you’re going to get a lot of open shots and because we knocked them down and was aggressive from the start, it helped us all the way through,” Arbanas said.
The Penguins jumped out to an early 21-9 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Penguins outscored Kent State 17-10 in the second quarter, and took a 38-19 lead in the half.
“I thought we came out really strong,” Barnes said. “Earlier in the season, we had a lot of slow starts and we’ve been talking a lot about that. And we want to come out very aggressive.
“The team was ready for what they were going to throw at us and what each individual player was going to do, and the players did a good job at executing.”
Kent State (3-6) was able to find their grove in the third quarter. Guard Larissa Lurken scored eight of Kent State’s 25 points in the quarter, but the damage was done. The Penguins never trailed in the game and recorded the largest win against Kent State in program history.
The Penguins held the Golden Flashes to 36.8 percent from the field and 25 percent from behind the arch.
“On the defensive end we do the same thing every day, but we just had a good day — we were in help. We have to realize the ones that aren’t shooters, they’re in help,” Arbanas said. “Indiya was guarding ... I’m not sure which number she was, but she was on the help side. It left the non-shooters, making them shoot rather than the people that are really good at shooting.”
YSU forward Sarah Cash had her second double-double of the season, scoring 10 points and 12 rebounds. Barnes said the team needed to help Cash because the defense was frequently double teaming her in the post, and commended her on her double-double despite only attempting four shots.
The Penguins were able to break out of their shooting slump that resulted in a loss to Penn State on Tuesday night. Smolinski said the team’s performance over the past couple game will give the players more energy and confidence moving forward.
“With us all hitting our shots it definitely feels good. I think that it just brings a positive energy for us all,” Smolinski said.