The Youngstown State women's basketball team exploded for 21 points in the first six minutes and continued the impressive offensive performance for an 83-61 victory over Niagara in the 2014-15 season opener on Saturday morning at Beeghly Center.
The Penguins shot 50.8 percent for the game and made nine 3s while leading by double digits for the final 31 minutes. YSU led 45-27 at halftime, and the lead ballooned to as much as 25 in the second half.
Freshman guard Nikki Arbanas (Hermitage, Pa.) dazzled in her Penguins debut, making all five of her 3-point attempts and finishing with a game-high 25 points. YSU's other four starters joined her in double figures, and senior Heidi Schlegel (Wapakoneta, Ohio) had 18 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. Indiya Benjamin (Lima, Ohio) added 11 points and six assists without committing a turnover.
Sylvia Maxwell came off the bench to lead Niagara with 16 points.
The Purple Eagles' only lead of the game came when Kelly Van Leeuwen hit a 3 on their first possession. Benjamin hit a triple a minute later to tie the game, and YSU went on to make five 3-pointers in the first 5:03. Benjamin's trey ignited an 11-0 run, and the fifth – by Arbanas – capped a 19-3 spurt that put the Penguins up 19-6. Niagara got no closer than nine the rest of the contest.
The 25 points by Arbanas are the most by any Penguins freshman in at least 13 years, and the Hickory High graduate is the first YSU player to go 5-for-5 from 3-point range since Caroline McCombs on March 7, 1996.
YSU had assists on its first 10 field goals and finished with 19 assists on 30 buckets. The Penguins were 30-for-59 overall, 9-for-25 from beyond the arc and 14-for-18 from the free-throw line.
Niagara shot 41.3 percent but was just 3-for-12 from 3-point range.
Youngstown State will play at Kent State on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.