Penguins Can’t Overcome First-Half Deficit in 65-60 Loss at Valparaiso

Kelley Wright (Photo by Ron Stevens)
Kelley Wright (Photo by Ron Stevens)

Valparaiso built a 12-point lead in the first half and held off a rally by the Youngstown State women's basketball team in the second to beat the Penguins 65-60 on Saturday afternoon at the Athletics-Recreation Center.

Youngstown State led just twice in the game, 1-0 and 11-10, and Valparaiso led for nearly 38 minutes. The Penguins got within one twice in the fourth period but were never able to catch the improved Crusaders team.

The loss drops YSU to 13-5 overall and 4-3 in Horizon League play, and Valparaiso is now 8-11 overall and 4-4 against the conference. YSU had beaten Valparaiso in nine of the previous 10 meetings

Penguins sophomore Sarah Cash tied for game-high honors with 21 points, and she grabbed a team-best seven rebounds. Cash was 8-of-11 from the field, but YSU shot just 34.9 percent as a team. The Penguins were 11-for-34 from 3-point range for 32.4 percent, and seven different players made a trey. Kelley Wright came off the bench to score 10 points and distribute five assists in 22 minutes. Janae Jackson scored all eight of her points in the first period.

Abby Dean scored 21 points, 14 above her average, and Jasmyn Walker contributed 18 points and a game-best 13 rebounds. Walker, who was shooting 64 percent from the free-throw line coming into the game, was 10-of-12 on charity tosses, and the Crusaders went 15-of-18 as a team. Two of those misses came in the final 30 seconds.

Cash scored the first point of the game on a free throw, but Meredith Hamlet scored the next five points to put Valpo up 5-1. Dean's 3-pointer put the Crusaders up 10-4, and Jackson scored five points during a 7-0 YSU run that gave the Penguins their only other lead at 11-10 with 5:40 left in the first period.

Valparaiso used a 10-2 run to go ahead 20-13 on back-to-back 3-pointers by Imani Scott-Thompson with 1:50 remaining, and the Penguins didn't score for the first 5:32 of the second period to create the largest margin of the game, 28-16. YSU closed the gap to within 32-27 in the final minute of the half, but Valpo scored the final four points, including the final two on a broken play when Indiya Benjamin tipped the ball into the backcourt, to go up 36-27 at halftime.

Valparaiso led by double digits twice in the first 2:30 of the second half, but YSU started chiseling away and cut the deficit down to two, 47-45, on a Wright 3-pointer in the final minute. Dean hit a quick 3 for Valpo on its next possession, which allowed them to have a five-point cushion entering the fourth.

A Cash 3-pointer at the 7:44 mark got the Penguins within two again at 54-52, and a triple by Nikki Arbanas got them within one for the first time, 56-55, with 6:37 remaining. YSU got a defensive stop but turned the ball over in transition, and a Dani Franklin 3-pointer started a 5-0 run by the Crusaders. Another 3 by Arbanas and a bucket by Cash at the 3:22 mark got YSU within 61-60, but the Penguins missed their final seven field-goal attempts and didn't score the rest of the game.

Youngstown State begins a four-game home stand on Thursday against Wright State at 7 p.m.

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