Strong Start, Finish Gives Penguins 70-54 Win Over UIC

Jenna Hirsch (Photo by Ron Stevens)
Jenna Hirsch (Photo by Ron Stevens)

Morgan Brunner scored 20 points in her first career start, and the Youngstown State women's basketball team pulled away from UIC in the fourth period for a 70-54 victory on Thursday evening at Beeghly Center.

Brunner made five 3-pointers, the most by a Penguin this season, and YSU finished 10-for-24 from beyond the arc as a team. Three teammates joined Brunner in double figures as Jenna Hirsch had 16 with seven assists, Benjamin had 13 points and seven assists and Mary Dunn posted 10 points.

Youngstown State had 25 points in the first and fourth periods and 10 in the second and third. Despite scoring just 10 in the third, the Penguins held the Flames to five in the period to set up a plus-11 fourth period.

Terri Bender had 13 points to lead the Flames, who were 5-for-26 from beyond the arc.

YSU led by as many as eight in the opening quarter behind eight points apiece from Benjamin and Brunner. Four different Penguins combined for an 8-0 run as YSU went up 11-4 at the 5:21 mark, and the lead grew to 14-6 on a Benjamin 3-pointer fewer than 30 seconds later. UIC got within 16-15 when Bender hit a 3, but Brunner hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to push the lead back to seven with 1:15 remaining.

YSU led 25-19 at the end of the first, and Kelley Wright's basket at the 8:48 mark of the second allowed the Penguins to match their largest lead up to that point at 27-19. Youngstown State then missed its next 12 shots, and UIC scored 12 straight points to go up 31-27 with 2:38 left in the period. Hirsch hit two 3-pointers in a three-possession span to tie the score at 33, and a Mailee Jones jumper with 37 seconds left knotted the score at 35 heading into halftime.

UIC scored the first four points of the third period to match its largest lead of the night at 39-35, but the Flames did not make a field goal over the final 8:15 of the period. YSU scored 10 straight points during that stretch, and Brunner's third 3-pointer of the game gave the Penguins a 41-39 lead at the 3:26 mark. The margin grew to 45-39 on Wright's breakaway layup before a UIC free throw made the score 45-40 heading into the fourth.

Dunn's first field goal of the night and ensuing free throw put the lead back to eight on the first possession of the fourth, and the first double-digit different came on two Hirsch free throws at the 7:58 mark. Brunner's fifth 3-pointer of the night gave her 20 points and put YSU ahead 64-50 with 3:59 remaining. YSU led by 16 twice before the final margin.

Youngstown State will host Valparaiso on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in the first half of another Horizon League doubleheader.