Free Throws Help Akron Beat YSU in Overtime, 76-74

Indiya Benjamin (Photo by Ron Stevens)
Indiya Benjamin (Photo by Ron Stevens)

Akron outscored the Youngstown State women's basketball team by 15 at the free-throw line and defeated the Penguins 76-74 in overtime on Tuesday evening at Beeghly Center.

YSU's Indiya Benjamin scored 21 points for the second straight game, but she battled foul trouble and was whistled for her fifth infraction on a soft bump with 2:45 left in the fourth period. She had just hit a 3-pointer that put the Penguins up 62-59, and YSU did not score again in regulation.

Akron outscored the Penguins 27-12 at the free-throw line and attempted 23 more free throws.

Mary Dunn scored a career-high 19 points on 9-for-14 shooting, and 13 of those points came in the second half. Alison Smolinski scored six of her eight points in overtime, and Natalie Myers scored all seven of her points in the first period. Benjamin finished her night with 21 points in 21 minutes.

The Penguins played without leading scorer Sarah Cash, who missed the game with a knee injury. She was one of three players who were preseason starters who did not play in the game.

Alex Ricketts scored 20 points, including seven in overtime, to lead Akron. She added 10 rebounds, and Hannah Plybon also had a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

Youngstown State's 11-point lead came at 27-16 on a Smolinski bucket at the 5:51 mark of the second period. The Penguins scored just six points in the next 10 minutes, which allowed Akron to take a 38-33 lead at the 7:16 mark of the third period.

Akron led by as much as six in the third period before YSU closed the period on a 10-3 run. Mailee Jones hit a runner at the buzzer to put the Penguins ahead 47-46 heading into the final quarter.

Youngstown State's largest lead in the fourth period was 51-47 following a three-point play by Jenna Hirsch. Akron scored the next six points to go up 53-51, and the margin was no greater than two for either team until Benjamin's triple at the 3:47 mark put the Penguins ahead 62-59.

Ricketts made two free throws with 1:25 left to tie the score at 1:25, and Akron missed on three go-ahead field-goal attempts in the final minute.

Jones scored on the first possession of overtime to put the Penguins up 64-62, and Dunn's basket at the 3:43 mark gave YSU its final lead of the evening at 66-64. YSU missed a layup in transition that would have given it a four-point cushion, and Ricketts hit a go-ahead 3-pointer to make the score 67-66 with 2:52 remaining. The Zips did not trail again and had their lead up to 75-68 before Smolinski hit a pair of 3s in the final minute.

Youngstown State shot 42.4 percent from the field, better than Akron's 36.7 percent, and it made one more 3-pointer than the Zips. The insurmountable difference for the Penguins was the free-throw line.

Benjamin and Myers combined to go 7-for-7 and score 17 points in the opening period as YSU led 21-14. The Penguins' first lead came at 7-6 when Benjamin hit a 3-pointer at the 4:41 mark, and she followed that with another 3 on YSU's next possession. Myers' triple put the Penguins up 13-8, and Kelley Wright's free throws with 1:03 put YSU ahead 19-12.

Youngstown State's lead increased to 27-16 on Smolinski's layup at the 5:51 mark, but the Penguins didn't score for more than four-and-a-half minutes after that as Akron went on a 10-0 run. A Dunn basket ended the drought and put YSU up 29-26, and Akron's Megan Sefcik tied the score on a 3 on the Zips' final possession of the half. Wright hit a runner at the buzzer to allow the Penguins to take a 31-29 lead at the half.

Youngstown State will play at Kent State on Saturday at 5 p.m.