Penguins Buckle Down on Defense to Earn Fourth Straight Win

Chelsea Olson (Photo by David Dermer)
Chelsea Olson (Photo by David Dermer)

The Youngstown State women's basketball team had nine blocks and held UIC to 31.3 percent shooting in a strong defensive effort that led to a 71-52 victory on Saturday at the UIC Pavilion.

The Penguins have now won five consecutive Horizon League road games for the first time in program history, and they have won six of their last seven contests overall to vault their conference record up to 8-6.

Freshman Chelsea Olson flirted with the program's first triple-double in 32 years and finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists and four blocks, all of which were game highs. She had 12 points, seven rebounds and seven assists after three quarters but was held to one assist in the fourth.

Mary Dunn scored 10 of her 12 points in the first half, Nikki Arbanas scored 10 points. The Penguins had 28 points from their bench, and Kelley Wright highlighted the bench contributions with six points, eight rebounds and four steals.

Tia Tedford led UIC with 15 points, and Taylor Toney added 13. The Flames played without leading scorer Brittany Byrd for the second straight game.

The Penguins scored the first five points of the contest and led 10-4 after an Olson triple at the 6:47 mark of the opening quarter. Tedford scored five points during a 9-2 Flames run, and UIC took its only lead of the game at 13-12 at the 2:08 mark. UIC had nine points from offensive rebounds at that point, but YSU allowed just four the rest of the contest.

The Flames lead lasted just 24 seconds as Natalie Myers hit a free throw to tie the score and followed with a 3-pointer to put the Penguins up 16-13. YSU led 18-15 at the end of the first, and they started the second period on a 9-1 spurt to take their first double-digit lead at 27-16 with 6:30 remaining. UIC's first field goal of the period didn't come until the 5:46 mark, and the Flames hung around and trailed just 33-28 with 1:49 left in the first half. A 3-pointer by Myers and a bucket by Dunn allowed the Penguins to take a 38-28 lead into halftime.

The Penguins increased the advantage to a dozen twice early in the third period, but they went without a field goal for almost five minutes as UIC trailed just 44-39 at the 5:01 mark. Arbanas hit a momentum-building 3-pointer on an assist from Sarah Cash, and YSU worked its lead back up to 12 at 56-44 at the end of the third. The Penguins' 2-3 zone defense then held UIC scoreless for the first 5:33 of the fourth period, which allowed the lead to grow to 66-47.

Youngstown State shot 43.1 percent overall and went 8-for-22 from 3-point range. YSU held UIC to 31.3 percent and outrebounded the Flames 49-34 overall, including 28-13 in the second half as it pulled away.

YSU will now play three of its final four games of the regular season at Beeghly Center. The first game of the stretch will be against Milwaukee on Thursday at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on 570 WKBN and ESPN3.