Benjamin Keys Late Rally as YSU Beats Saint Francis, 69-68

Indiya Benjamin (Photo by Dustin Livesay)
Indiya Benjamin (Photo by Dustin Livesay)

Indiya Benjamin scored five of her game-high 21 points in the final minute as the Youngstown State women's basketball team rallied to beat Saint Francis U 69-68 on Saturday at Beeghly Center.

The Penguins trailed 64-59 with 1:35 left before outscoring the Red Flash 9-4 over the final stretch. Mailee Jones started the rally with a layup in transition, and Benjamin scored the next five points on a 3-pointer and her own transition layup that put YSU up 66-64.

Red Flash forward Ace Harrison was fouled on the next possession and went to the line with a chance to tie the score with 23 seconds left. She made both attempts, but her second was wiped away due to a lane violation.

Jones split a pair of free throws with 6.7 seconds left to put YSU up 67-65, and the Red Flash turned the ball over on their inbounds pass. Jenna Hirsch made two free throws to put the Penguins up 69-65, and SFU's Halee Adams banked in a half-court shot at the buzzer for the final tally.

Benjamin added a career-high eight rebounds to her full stat line, and the Penguins held a 48-31 rebounding advantage. That was a big turnaround from when they were outrebounded by 21 at Northern Arizona on Monday.

Jones scored 13 points, Hirsch added eight, and Mary Dunn and Natalie Myers both had seven off the bench for the Penguins, who won for the third time in the last four games.

Saint Francis came into the game averaging 87.6 points per game, which ranked sixth in the country, and the Red Flash scored 103 against Wisconsin and 91 versus Marquette last month.

Saint Francis scored the game's first seven points and led 11-2 at the 6:42 mark of the first period on a 3-pointer by Jessica Kovatch. Morgan Olson had four points during an 8-0 Penguins run that cut the deficit to 11-10, and the score was within four points until YSU tied it at 21 on the final possession of the quarter. Benjamin had five points in a minute stretch to trim the score to one, and Hirsch hit a 3 with 20 seconds left for the tie.

YSU's first lead came when Alison Smolinski hit a 3-pointer at the 8:44 mark of the second period to put the Penguins ahead 26-25. SFU scored the next five points to go up 30-26, but Youngstown State outscored the Red Flash 14-5 over the final six minutes to take a 40-35 lead at halftime. A Myers 3-pointer gave YSU its largest lead of the half, 38-32, with 1:07 left.

Kovatch, who came into the game averaging 20.2 points per game, was whistled for four fouls in the first half. Her third came with 2:27 left in the second period, and she was called for an illegal screen with 29 seconds left. She finished with 11 points, and Harrison had a team-high 18.

Saint Francis scored the first eight points of the second half to go up 43-40, and YSU scored seven straight points later in the third period to go up 53-49. The lead changed hands four times in the final period before YSU's late run.

Youngstown State will host Akron on Tuesday at 7 p.m.