On the rebound: YSU bounces back vs. UIC

By Brian Dzenis

bdzenis@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

The Youngstown State women’s basketball team saw across-the-board improvement in its first game of the new year.

After closing 2017 with ugly shooting and poor rebounding in a double-digit loss to Oakland, the Penguins bounced back with a 76-63 victory against the Illinois-Chicago on Thursday night at Beeghly Center.

“Everyone came into this game with a lot more fire and spark because we were a little salty after our last game,” freshman guard McKenah Peters said.

YSU (6-8, 2-1 Horizon League) have won four of their last five contests, but that lone 58-48 loss to Oakland was ugly. The team was outrebounded 45-30 and shot nine percent from three.

On Thursday, the Penguins grabbed 31 rebounds to the Flames’ 26 and shot 47 percent from 3-point range.

The Penguins had a knack for hitting 3-pointers as the numbers on the clock moved closer to zero.

The two sides scuffled through a low-scoring first quarter — which feature nine Penguin turnovers to six points — and the Penguins remained sluggish in the second quarter.

Then with under three minutes until half, Indiya Benjamin made the first of her two 3-pointers on the night. With a minute left in the half, Benjamin added another 3 with 45 seconds left and Chelsea Olson hit a buzzer-beating three to make it 30-23 in favor of the Penguins at the halfway mark.

YSU wasn’t done hitting buzzer beaters. West Branch graduate Melinda Trimmer added one to give YSU a four-point lead heading into the fourth.

“Both of those were just huge momentum breakers that made us want to win even more and just keep going,” Peters said.

The Penguins opened the fourth quarter with an 11-3 run to make it 61-49 with 6:28 to play. The Flames never got the game back into single digits.

Lordstown graduate Sarah Cash led YSU with 17 points and tied with Mary Dunn for the team lead in rebounds with five. Peters came off the bench with 14 points and made all three of her 3-point shots and Benjamin added 13 points. The Penguins got 34 points off the bench to UIC’s 14.

“The farther we get into conference play, the more we’ll have to use the bench,” YSU coach John Barnes said. “Saturday [against IUPUI] is going to be big and we’re going to the bench early and they need to perform when they get out there.”

Four of the Flames starting five finished in double figures. Brittany Byrd and Toney Taylor each scored 13 points. Catera Etheridge scored 12 points and Gabryelle Johnson had 11.

Thursday’s game marked the third straight absence for junior guard Alison Smolinksi. The team’s second leading scorer was on the bench in a walking boot and has been that way since exiting the Penguins’ Dec. 20 contest against Penn State-Beaver after just three minutes of play. She remains out indefinitely.

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