By Dan Hiner
The Youngstown State University women’s basketball team began its season with a nail-biting 53-51 win over Canisius College on Friday night.
Coming off the close call in the season opener, YSU needed to be more efficient in their second game of the season. The Penguins were in control throughout their game with Niagara University on Tuesday en route to a 71-54 win over the Purple Eagles.
YSU (2-0) trailed 6-4 with 5:39 remaining in the first quarter, but the Penguins took the lead shortly after point guard Indiya Benjamin hit 3-pointer, giving YSU 9-6 lead. Benjamin’s shot sparked an 8-0 run and YSU went into the second quarter with a 19-11 lead. Benjamin finished with 15 points three rebounds, two assists and shot 3-4 from behind the 3-point line.
Both teams traded 3-pointers during the second quarter. The first two-point shot of the quarter wasn’t made until Niagara’s Simone Hobdy converted a layup with 2:22 left in the half. Niagara (0-2) was able to outscore YSU 13-11 in the second quarter.
Junior Kelsea Newman and freshman Alison Smolinski kept the Penguins in the game, combining for nine points on three 3-pointers in the quarter, allowing YSU to take a 30-24 lead at halftime. Smolinski scored a game-high 16 points off the bench in her second career game and shot 5-11 from the field, 4-10 from behind the 3-point line.
YSU’s Nikki Arbanas scored six points in the third quarter allowing the Penguins to extend their lead to 52-42 by the end of the third. Arbanas finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.
Sophomore Morgan Olson and senior Janae Jackson stepped up for the Penguins in the fourth quarter. Jackson hit a jumper with 6:53 remaining in the game and gave the Penguins a 10-point lead. YSU held on to the 10-point advantage the rest of the game. Olson and Jackson combined for 10 of YSU’s 19 points in the fourth. Olson finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. Jackson finished with six points and eight rebounds.
YSU’s offense was more successful from behind the 3-point line in Tuesday’s game than in the season opener. The Penguins shot 10-30 from behind the arch, an improvement from the game against Canisius when the Penguins shot 13 percent, 3-23.
YSU outrebounded the Purple Eagles 48-34 on Tuesday and shot 95.8 percent from the free throw line, the best free throw performance in a game in the history of the program.
Canisius forced 15 YSU turnovers and scored 14 points off turnovers. The Purple Eagles were also able to score 22 points in the paint. The Penguins held Victoria Rampado to 12 points on 3-15 shot attempts. Rampado was a preseason First-Team All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) selection.
The Penguins will play their next game on Friday night when they host Radford University at the Beeghly Center. Tipoff is set for 7:00 p.m.