Northern Arizona controlled the paint on both ends of the floor and pulled away from the Youngstown State women's basketball team in the final 15 minutes for a 70-49 victory at the Rolle Activity Center on Monday evening.
The Lumberjacks outscored the Penguins 34-14 in the paint, and they held a 19-4 edge in second-chance points. NAU also forced YSU to take 27 of its 53 field goal attempts from beyond the 3-point arc and outrebounded the Penguins 51-29.
Sarah Cash scored 12 points in 16 minutes to lead the Penguins, and Mary Dunn and Alison Smolinski both finished with nine. Dunn scored seven of her points in the first two minutes of the third period.
Olivia Lucero scored a career-high 23 points and added nine rebounds for the Lumberjacks.
NAU led 18-13 at the end of the first period, and half of its points came on offensive rebounds. Youngstown State's only lead was 5-3 following a Cash bucket with 5:31 remaining in the first period. Northern Arizona scored the next seven points, four of which came when offensive rebounds extended its possessions, to go up 10-5.
Smolinski's triple for YSU trimmed the deficit to 10-8, and a Kelley Wright 3-pointer with 57 seconds left had the Penguins within 16-13. That was the final time the score was within three. Northern Arizona scored on an offensive rebound on its final possession to extend its lead to five, and the Lumberjacks scored the first 10 points of the second period to go up 28-13.
Four straight points by Melinda Trimmer capped a six-point spurt by the Penguins that made the score 28-19 with 6:42 left, and Indiya Benjamin's basket cut the deficit to 31-24 with 3:29 left. YSU had a chance to cut more into the lead as NAU made one field goal in the final 5:50 of the half, but the Penguins made just two in that stretch.
Dunn helped the Penguins get within six at 37-31 less than two minutes into the third period, and the deficit was six again at 41-35 with 6:33 remaining. The Penguins went more than four minutes without a field goal but still trailed just 47-40 after a Benjamin triple at the 2:14 mark. NAU scored the final five points of the third to go up 52-40.
Benjamin hit another 3 in the opening seconds of the fourth, and YSU trailed 56-46 on Smolinski's triple at the 7:57 mark. Northern Arizona held the Penguins to one field goal the rest of the game and closed out its win on a 14-3 run.
Youngstown State will return home to face Saint Francis U at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. The game was originally scheduled for 2:30 p.m. but was pushed back three hours due to the YSU football team's playoff game that starts at 2 p.m.