Strong First Half Leads Penguins to 74-67 Win Over Vermont

Latisha Walker | Photo by Dustin Livesay
Latisha Walker | Photo by Dustin Livesay

Bethlehem, Pa. – The Youngstown State women's basketball team built a 19 point lead in the first half and withstood a Vermont run in the second half in a 74-67 victory on Saturday at the Lehigh Christmas City Classic.

Latisha Walker had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and Karen Flagg recorded 12 points and 11 rebounds as two of four Penguins in double figures.

The Penguins led 39-20 with a minute left before halftime, but Vermont went on a 17-2 run extending into the second half to get within four points at 41-37 at the 14:57 mark. Heidi Schlegel stopped the run with a bucket, and Liz Hornberger hit a big 3-pointer two possessions later to put Youngstown State up by seven.

A Schlegel basket got the lead back to double digits at 54-44 with 11:21, and YSU led by at least seven for the next six minutes. Kaylea Britton scored two of her 18 points to get Vermont within 62-56, but Walker capped a mini, yet significant, 5-0 run that put YSU back on top by 11 with 3:55 remaining. That was Youngstown State's last field goal of the contest, and the Catamounts scored seven straight points to cut the deficit to 67-63 with a minute left.

Flagg made both attempts of her one-and-one chance to push the lead to six, and Jenna Hirsch stole the inbounds pass to allow the Penguins to keep possession. Hornberger made both of her free-throw attempts to push the lead to eight, and YSU led by at least five the rest of the way.

The Penguins held the Catamounts to 26.3 percent shooting in the first half and forced 10 turnovers, but Vermont shot 40.9 percent and had just four turnovers in the second half as it made its run. Youngstown State shot 45.2 percent in the first half and 44 percent in the second half, but the Penguins were hurt by 12 turnovers in the final 20 minutes.

Hornberger hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to key a 10-4 start for the Penguins, and YSU scored nine straight points shortly after to go up 22-10 on a Flagg bucket at the 9:23 mark. Youngstown State later scored eight consecutive points during a five-minute Vermont scoreless period to take a 35-17 lead with 2:16 remaining. The Penguins' largest lead of the half came at 39-20 when Walker scored on back-to-back possessions.

Hornberger finished with 16 points in a bounce-back effort from Friday's scoreless game, and Monica Touvelle had 11 points off the bench. Hirsch added seven assists and three steals to her six points, and Flagg contributed four blocks.

Youngstown State's next game will be at Akron on Dec. 29 at 2 p.m.