By Rick Henneman
The Youngstown State University women’s basketball team (9-18, 6-10 Horizon League) entered Saturday’s game against Horizon League-leading Wright State University (22-5, 14-1 HL) looking to build on the momentum from Thursday night’s overtime victory over Northern Kentucky University.
The Penguins were unable to upset Wright State who won 68-64.
YSU won the opening tip but it was the Raiders who scored the first points of the game with a jumper from guard Mackenzie Taylor with 7:41 to play in the first quarter.
The Penguins answered with a 10-0 run sparked by a layup from center Mary Dunn. YSU led Wright State 10-4 with 4:41 left in the first period of play.
Guard Indiya Benjamin was responsible for four of the six points the Penguins scored in the remainder of the first quarter. YSU led 16-13 going into the second quarter.
YSU held WSU to 31.6 percent shooting in the first. The Raiders missed all five of their attempts from beyond the arc. The Penguins were 8 of 14 from the field.
WSU tied the game at 16 during their second possession of the second quarter with a three from Taylor. Guard Alison Smolinski answered with a three-pointer of her own to bring the Penguins lead to 19-16 with 8:26 left in the first half.
YSU was hot from beyond the arc. The Penguins opened up a 32-26 lead with 1:44 left in the second quarter. YSU led 32-29 going into the halftime break after Wright State scored on their final two possessions.
WSU’s Symone Simmons led all scorers with 12 points in the first half while Benjamin led the Penguins with 11 points and three assists. YSU had 10 turnovers at half.
WSU took their first lead since the beginning of the first quarter with 6:30 left in the third. Forward Alexyse Thomas made a layup to bring the score to 36-35.
The Raiders went on an 8-0 run capped off by a three from forward Antania Hayes. Wright State led 46-40 with 1:40 left in the third quarter. A jumper from guard Jenna Hirsch cut the Penguins deficit to four entering the fourth quarter.
WSU opened up 51-44 lead after a layup from Hayes but YSU guard Melinda Trimmer brought YSU back within four with a corner three.
With 5:39 left in the game, Benjamin was fouled on a mid-range jumper and converted the 3-point play to bring YSU within three.
YSU trailed 61-59 with 44 seconds to play when WSU guard Emily Vogelpohl drained a three to increase the Raiders lead to five. Smolinski cut WSU lead to three with a driving lay-up. A layup from Taylor put the game out of YSU’s reach. Wright State claimed a 68-64 win.
Benjamin led all scorers with a career-high 23 points. Smolinski finished the game with 20 points and six rebounds.
Wright State finished the game with 27 points off of 22 YSU turnovers.
YSU was 6 of 12 from the free throw line. YSU was No.12 in the country in free throw percentage before this game.
“If we make our free throws; we win the game,” YSU head coach John Barnes said about the loss. “If we execute the defensive game plan; we win the game. Give Wright State credit, they did what they do and rammed it down our throats.”
Benjamin was impressed by how close the game was against the best team in the Horizon League.
“Ultimately it gives us confidence because we are at the lower end of the league,” Benjamin said. “To come that close to the best team in the league only lifts our spirits and gives us more confidence for out next opponent.”
The Penguins will next play against Oakland University on February 23 at 7:00 p.m.