The Youngstown State women's basketball team scored 18 straight points in the first half and was in control throughout in a 91-61 win over Kent State at Beeghly Center on Saturday afternoon. It was the Penguins' largest margin of victory over the Golden Flashes in the 41-game history of the series.
The 18-point run was part of a larger 25-2 spurt that lasted nearly 10 minutes between the first and second periods. The explosion put the Penguins ahead 34-9 just over 13 minutes into the game, and YSU led by at least 13 for the rest of the contest.
With the victory, YSU improved to 7-1 for the second straight season and for the seventh time in program history. Kent State dropped to 3-6.
Youngstown State's offense was in top form against its nearest rival with 15 3-pointers and an impressive 29 assists on 31 field goals. Sophomore Nikki Arbanas had seven 3s and 21 points, and freshman Alison Smolinski nailed six triples and scored a career and game-high 22 points. Indiya Benjamin was an outstanding orchestrator with 15 assists, which was one shy of Danielle Carson's school record that was set 1985.
The Penguins shot 50.8 percent (31-for-61) overall and 41.7 percent (15-for-36) from 3-point range, and they were 14-for-15 from the free-throw line.
Larissa Lurken had 15 points to lead Kent State, which shot 22.6 percent in the first half and 36.8 percent for the game.
Smolinski made a 3 on YSU's first possession of the game, and the Penguins' first four buckets were all from beyond the arc. The fourth – by Arbanas at the 6:09 mark – put YSU up 12-7 and kickstarted the run that decided the game. Kent State went scoreless for more than five minutes as YSU's offense was in high gear.
Another triple by Arbanas gave the Penguins their first double-digit lead at 19-9 with 1:13 left in the first period, and her 3 at the 8:47 mark of the second put YSU up 29-9. The lead ballooned to 34-9 on two Cash free throws before Kent State's scoring drought ended with six minutes left before halftime.
The lead was at least 18 for the rest of the first half, and it was 24 twice in the third period before Kent State started to chip away. The Golden Flashes cut the deficit to 54-41 with 1:48 left in the third, but YSU scored the next seven points to get the advantage back to 20. Smolinski hit a 3 to start the run, and the Penguins got another possession on a Kent State foul with the shot in the air. Jackson converted on a pass from Cash, and she scored again on YSU's next possession on a pass from Benjamin.
YSU led 62-44 after three periods, and Arbanas hit a 3 on the first possession of the fourth to get the lead back over 20. The Penguins led by at least 20 for all but 20 seconds of the fourth period, and the advantage grew to as much as 32 in the final minute after a 14-point YSU run.
The Penguins play the second game of their three-game homestand on Monday night against Salem International. Tipoff at the Beeghly Center is set for 7 p.m.