YSU Starts League Play With 69-66 Win at UIC

Nikki Arbanas (Photo by Ron Stevens)
Nikki Arbanas (Photo by Ron Stevens)

Chicago – The Youngstown State women's basketball team had four players score in double figures and held off UIC late for a 69-66 victory at the UIC Pavilion on Thursday in the Horizon League opener for both schools.

The Penguins scored the final seven points of the first half to tie the score at halftime, and they withstood a late Flames run in the second half to start conference play with a victory for the third time in the last four years. Freshman Indiya Benjamin had 12 of her 17 points in the second half, and fellow freshman Nikki Arbanas had 13 of her 15 in the final 20 minutes. Heidi Schlegel added 14 points, and Latisha Walker finished with 11 points.

YSU shot 58.8 percent from the field and was 16-of-18 from the free-throw line in the second half. The Penguins, who entered the contest leading the country in free-throw percentage, finished the game going 25-of-29 from the charity stripe.

Youngstown State is now 12-2 overall and 1-0 in Horizon League play.

Ruvanna Campbell had game highs of 24 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Flames (10-4, 0-1).

Arbanas hit a triple on the first possession of the second half to put the Penguins up 31-28, and that remained the score for the next three minutes. A 3 by UIC's Melita Emanuel-Carr started a 7-0 run for the Flames that put them ahead 35-31, but YSU answered with a 14-3 run to go up 45-38 on another Arbanas trey at the 11:11 mark. The Penguins held the lead the rest of the game.

That was the first of nine seven-point leads for the Penguins over the next seven minutes, and a layup by Benjamin with 3:55 left gave the Penguins a 62-53 lead. That was the largest margin for either team in the game.

Benjamin made two free throws to keep the margin at nine, 64-55, with 3:21 left, but UIC scored the next seven points to get within two points with 1:33 left. Benjamin hit two free throws to stop the run, and Schlegel offset a Campbell bucket with two more free throws with 25 seconds left to make it a two-possession game. Walker then split a pair of free throws to put YSU up 69-64, and two charity tosses by Imani Moore with 0.2 seconds remaining accounted for the final points.

Youngstown State trailed by as many as eight in the first half, but the Penguins erased that deficit by ending the period with a 9-1 run.

YSU led 10-6 six minutes into the half after Kelsea Newman hit a pair of 3s in a span of 90 seconds, but the Penguins went nearly seven minutes without making another field goal. Youngstown State still maintained a four-point advantage, 12-8, after two Walker free throws at the 11:51 mark.

UIC scored 11 straight points, which was capped by its only 3-pointer of the half by Emanuel-Carr, to put the Flames ahead 19-12. The Penguins scored the next four points to chip into the difference, but UIC scored eight of the next 11 points to take its largest lead of the half at 27-19 with 3:01 remaining.

Schlegel made two free throws to start YSU's burst to end the half, and the Penguins went on to score the final seven points of the period on a 3-pointer by Benjamin and four free throws by Jenna Hirsch.

Youngstown State will stay on the road to play at Green Bay on Saturday at 2 p.m. Eastern. The game will be broadcast live on 570 WKBN and ESPN3.