Cleveland State Escapes with 71-68 Win Over YSU in League Opener

Alison Smolinski (Photo by Ron Stevens)
Alison Smolinski (Photo by Ron Stevens)

Cleveland State scored 10 points from offensive rebounds in the fourth period and rallied for a 71-68 victory over the Youngstown State women's basketball team in the Horizon League opener for both teams on Saturday at the Wolstein Center.

Youngstown State led 38-32 at halftime and 45-35 three minutes into the third period. Cleveland State rallied to take a 52-51 lead in the final minute of the period, and it held on throughout a close fourth period.

Mary Dunn led the Penguins with 16 points and six rebounds, and three other YSU players scored in double figures. Alison Smolinski scored 13 points, Indiya Benjamin had 10 and Kelley Wright had a dozen off the bench. Wright made all four of her 3-pointers in the first half as YSU went 9-for-20 from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes. The Penguins were 2-for-14 in the second half, including 1-for-10 in the final period.

Ashanti Abshaw finished with a game-high 27 points on 12-for-19 shooting, and nine of those points came in the fourth period. Jade Ely had 15 points, 15 rebounds and five assists.

Smolinski made two 3-pointers in the first four minutes as Youngstown State scored eight of the game's first 10 points. YSU led 14-13 at the end of the first period, and Cleveland State's first lead of the afternoon came on an Abshaw bucket on the first possession of the second period. Wright hit a pair of 3s during a 10-2 run that gave the Penguins a 33-28 advantage at the 3:16 mark, and Wright's final trey of the opening half put YSU ahead 38-32.

Dunn scored YSU's first seven points in the second half, and her basket at the 7:17 mark of the third period gave the Penguins their largest lead at 45-35. Cleveland State went on a 17-6 run over the next six minutes to go up 52-51 on a Khayla Livingston basket, but YSU scored the final five points of the period to take a 56-52 lead into the final 10 minutes.

Eight of Cleveland State's first nine points in the fourth followed offensive rebounds, and Ely's 3-pointer with 7:47 remaining put the Vikings ahead 61-58. A Benjamin triple just over three minutes later put YSU back on top 64-63, and YSU's final lead came when Benjamin hit another basket to make the score 66-65. Abshaw scored off a miss on Cleveland State's next possession, and Ely hit a layup in transition with 3:10 remaining to put the Vikings up 69-66. Smolinski's basket with 2:01 remaining gave YSU its final points, and neither team scored over the final 1:40. Wright had a tying 3-point attempt in the final seconds that spun out.

Cleveland State shot 46.9 percent from the field and outrebounded the Penguins 48-35. YSU finished with 11 3-pointers, six more than Cleveland State, and the Penguins had a 15-8 edge in points off turnovers.

Youngstown State will play a pair of Horizon League road contests next week, starting with a 5 p.m. game at Wright State on Thursday.