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YSU falters late to IUPUI in 76-68 OT loss

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Youngstown State forward Lilly Ritz (right) shoots over IUPUI's Macee Williams during the Penguins' 76-68 overtime loss to the visiting Jaguars. Ritz had 23 points and 13 rebounds.

YOUNGSTOWN — The opportunity was there, just not the finish.

Holding an eight-point lead with under a minute to play, Youngstown State had preseason Horizon League favorite IUPUI on the ropes. But a furious Jaguar rally, capped by a corner 3-pointer from Anna Mortag with 6 seconds left, forced overtime.

From there, the Jaguars, thanks in large part to center Macee Williams, dominated en route to a 76-68 victory over the host Penguins on Sunday afternoon at the Beeghly Center. It was YSU’s first loss in conference play and first at home this season.

“We felt pretty good about where we were. We gave up two and-1s, maybe three down that stretch, and then it was no threes at all costs — overplay and deny,” YSU coach John Barnes said of the final sequence in regulation. “They were able to get open and get it off.”

The Penguins (15-2, 9-1) were up 60-52 after a pair of Mady Aulbach free throws with 51 seconds to play, but IUPUI (10-5, 7-3) quickly found itself back to within a possession after an and-1 from Madison Wise and a 3-pointer from Rachel Kent brought the score to 60-58 with 11 seconds left.

Aulbach was fouled again and split her free throws, sinking the second one. IUPUI took its final timeout of regulation to advance the ball, and then Natalie Andersen found Mortag in the left corner for the open look before the Penguins could foul to prevent the shot.

YSU also didn’t help itself on the other end, as a couple critical turnovers allowed IUPUI the opportunity to even have those shots.

Barnes credited IUPUI for battling back, and said of his team, “We panicked. I felt like we had a lot of panic passes, panic dribbles, not focused on what we were doing. Ultimately, that’s my job to make sure we don’t panic, make sure we don’t lose our cool. So we have to do a better job of making sure we’re ready.”

In the overtime session, Williams, the league’s preseason player of the year, scored six of IUPUI’s first eight points as the Jaguars raced out to a 69-62 lead and never relinquished it the rest of the way. She finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

The Jaguars finished the game on a 24-8 run after that 60-52 deficit.

“I think we just kind of let go at the end and into overtime, and kind of felt defeated a little bit,” YSU guard Malia Magestro acknowledged.

For her part, Magestro was a bright spot for the Penguins. So, too, was Lilly Ritz.

Shooting just 2-for-18 since the New Year entering Sunday’s game, Magestro sank three 3-pointers in the first half, hit another pair in the second and finished with a career-high 19 points. Ritz, meanwhile, finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Paige Shy also hit double figures with 12 points.

IUPUI was paced by Williams’ 16 as well as 14 points apiece from Kent and Rachel McLimore. Wise added 11 and Andersen had 10. IUPUI shot 26-for-50 from the field compared to YSU’s 24-for-71 day.

The free throw line also made a difference. The Jags hit 16 of their 19 free throws, while YSU went 11-for-18 overall.

“I’ve been worried about free throw percentages getting us sometimes, because we’ve been 60 percent or we’ve been 85 or 90 percent in different games,” Barnes said. “But unfortunately, against a great team, we shot 60 percent.”

Despite the loss, the Penguins still maintain their grip on first place in the Horizon League standings. Northern Kentucky and Cleveland State each are sitting at 5-2 in league play, while IUPUI is now 7-3. The top four teams in the conference will receive a first round bye in the Horizon League Tournament before hosting a quarterfinal.

As such, Barnes appeared ready to turn the page.

“I’m disappointed, and the team’s disappointed, but it’s one game and a long season,” he said. “We’re not going to let this define a whole season.”

jwhetzel@tribtoday.com

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