By Dan Hiner
With 22 seconds left in the first round of the Horizon League tournament game between #6 Youngstown State University women’s basketball team and #7 Oakland University, YSU point guard Indiya Benjamin dribbles the ball at the top of the key. She moved to her right to pull up for a mid-range jumper, but the shot was to strong and bounced to the far side of the rim.
But YSU forward Janae Jackson grabbed the offensive rebound and hit a turn-around jumper to give the Penguins a 65-63 lead with 2.2 seconds left in the game.
Oakland’s Elena Popkey had a shot to win the game with a 3-pointer, but it was too strong.
YSU (19-11, 9-9 in the Horizon League) escaped the first round of the conference tournament, and Jackson was responsible for much of YSU’s success in the second half.
During the team’s weekly press conference, Jackson said the Penguins needed to “just play your game.”
Jackson has been used primarily for defense and rebounding this season, but against Oakland, she scored 24 points and 15 rounds — both career highs.
YSU took control of the game in the first quarter. YSU forward Sarah Cash took control in the first half. She scored 10 of her 12 points in the first and temporarily took Olivia Nash, Oakland’s best player, out of the game after picking up two early fouls.
The Penguins held a 20-8 lead with 1:56 left in the first, but the Grizzles cut the lead down to 29-21 by halftime. Both teams struggled to shot the ball in the first half, Oakland was 8-29 (27.6 percent) and YSU was 10-33 (30.3 percent).
Oakland (15-15, 7-11 in the Horizon League) flipped the switch in the second half and outscored YSU 27-18 in the third quarter. The Grizzles shot 50 percent from the field in the third and held a 48-47 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
But that’s when Jackson picked up the Penguins’ offense. Jackson scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, including YSU first 10 points in the fourth. Jackson’s scoring allowed the Penguins the claw back into the game.
With less than 2:30 left in the game, the Penguins were down 63-61 but Jackson stepped up again and hit another shot to tie the game at 63. YSU’s defense kept the Grizzles scoreless during the final two and a half minutes, and set up Jackson’s game-winning shot.
With the win, the Penguins advance to the second round of the Horizon League tournament to play Wright State University. The Penguins split the season series with the Raiders, including a 77-66 loss in the final regular season game on Sunday.
Tip off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. at the Kress Events Center at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay. The game can be seen on ESPN 3.
Oakland 63, YSU 65
Oakland (15-15, 7-11) — Elena Popkey 7-0-16, Taylor Gleason 5-0-10, Nola Anderson 3-1-8, Taylor Jones 2-2-6, Sinclair Russell 2-2-6, Nicole Dodd 2-0-6, Olivia Nash 2-0-5, Korrin Taylor 1-1-3, Sidney Santos 1-0-3. Totals: 25-6-63.
YSU (19-11, 9-9) — Janae Jackson 11-2-24, Sarah Cash 6-0-12, Indiya Benjamin 3-1-9, Nikki Arbanas 2-2-8, Jenna Hirsch 2-2-7, Kelley Wright 1-1-3, Melinda Trimmer 0-2-2. Totals: 25-10-65.
Oakland 12 9 27 15 — 63
YSU 20 9 18 18 — 65
3-point field goals: Oakland 7 (Dodd 2, Popkey 2, Anderson, Nash, Santos); YSU 5 (Arbanas 2, Benjamin 2, Hirsch).
Rebounds: Oakland 47 (Russell 13, Popkey 7, Nash 6, Jones 5, Santos 5, Anderson 3, Dodd 3, Gleason 3, Team 2); YSU 45 (Jackson 15, Cash 8, Benjamin 6, Hirsch 5, Arbanas 3, Wright 3, Kelsea Newman 2, Team 3).
Assists: Oakland 9 (Gleason 4, Popkey 3, Dodd, Russell); YSU 11 (Benjamin 5, Hirsch 2, Jackson 2, Arbanas, Newman).