By Dan Hiner
The Youngstown State University women’s basketball team’s game against Tennessee State University didn’t go as smoothly as some might have expected.
A strong second half allowed the Penguins to pull away with a 69-58 win over the Tigers on Wednesday night.
Tennessee State (5-8) outworked YSU on the boards in the first half. The Tigers came down with nine offensive rebounds that led to nine second-chance points. The Penguins trailed 35-27 at halftime.
But YSU (10-2, 1-0 in the Horizon League) was able to turn things around in the second half. YSU was aided by Tennessee State foul trouble early in the second half. The Tigers’ foul trouble was able to put the Penguins at the line with just under six minutes to go in the third quarter. The Penguins went on a 12-0 run to start the third and took a 49-41 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Penguins started to pull away in the final quarter. YSU started to play more physical in the final minutes of the game. The Penguins started to force turnovers and began to work the ball in the paint for easier shot attempts.
YSU forwards Sarah Cash and Janae Jackson took over the fourth quarter. Both forwards combined to score 18 of the Penguins’ 20 points in the fourth. Cash scored 10 of her career-high 22 points in the fourth quarter and Jackson chipped in with eight of her 10 points in the fourth as well.
YSU head coach John Barnes said the Penguins’ offense began to turn things around after YSU point guard Indiya Benjamin became more aggressive in the second half.
“She attacked pretty much the whole second half,” Barnes said. “When she gets into the lane she creates a lot of problems for the other teams because if they don’t help, she’s a really good finisher, and if they do, she could kick it out for the three. So her attacking again made a huge difference in the second half.”
Barnes went on to say the Penguins made rebounding and execution points of emphasis in the second half.
“Well we really didn’t do a whole lot different in the third quarter. I mean we boxed out better in the second half — we gave up a lot of easy offensive rebound put backs in the first half — in the second half we did a better job at getting bodies on them and keeping them off the glass,” Barnes said. “I thought we did a better job at keeping them out of the lane and driving to the basket too. But overall, I think it was our effort and focus. Our executing the game plan was much better in the second half than in the first.”
Now the Penguins will enter the rest of their Horizon League schedule. YSU played one conference game earlier this season. The Penguins played Oakland University on Nov. 28. The game was originally scheduled for Monday night, but Barnes said he’s glad the schedule change was made because it give the team more time to focus on Saturday’s upcoming game against the University of Detroit Mercy.
“We were supposed to play Oakland on Monday night, but we got that game out of the way so we could really focus on Detroit and try to get that done,” Barnes said.