Penguins Fall 70-59 in Opening Round of the WBI

Nikki Arbanas (Photo by Jamie Hall)
Nikki Arbanas (Photo by Jamie Hall)

The Youngstown State women's basketball team went cold in the second half and had its season end with a 70-59 loss to Binghamton in the opening round of the Women's Basketball Invitational on Wednesday evening at Beeghly Center.

The Penguins led by 13 early in the second period and 33-22 with 3:34 left in the quarter, but Binghamton built momentum to close the half and went on outscore YSU 36-23 in the second half.

Youngstown State finishes the 2017-18 campaign with a 16-16 record, and it earned a postseason berth for the third time in the last four years. Those four years came with point guard Indiya Benjamin steering the offense, and the program's all-time assists leader posted eight points and 10 assists in her final game wearing the Red and White.

America East Player of the Year Imani Watkins led Binghamton with 27 points. The Bearcats earned their first win in a Division I postseason tournament, and they will advance to play either Yale or Northeastern in the second round.

In addition to Benjamin's efforts, Nikki Arbanas went 5-for-5 from 3-point range and finished with a team-best 16 points. Sarah Cash added 13 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double. While Arbanas made all of her 3-point attempts, her teammates couldn't find the bottom of the net from beyond the arc and went a combined 0-for-13.

Binghamton scored on the first possession of the game to go up 2-0, but YSU steadily built a sizeable lead. Youngstown State scored the final seven points of the first period to go up 19-8, and the Penguins extended their lead to 13 twice in the opening minute of the second period. YSU maintained at least an eight point lead over the next six minutes, and Cash scored on back-to-back possessions to put the Penguins' advantage at 33-22 with 3:34 left in the half.

At that point, Binghamton turned up the pressure defensively and scored a dozen straight points to go up 34-33 when Watkins completed a three-point play at the 1:14 mark. Arbanas beat the buzzer with a 3 to give the Penguins a 36-34 lead at the half.

A Cash jumper put YSU ahead 42-36 three minutes into the third quarter, but the Penguins couldn't build on the lead as they didn't make a field goal until the 3:18 mark. That Anne Secrest bucket at the 3:18 mark gave YSU a 45-43 lead, and Secrest scored on the next possession to give the Penguins their final lead at 47-45.

Watkins made back-to-back 3s to spark an 8-2 Binghamton run to close the quarter, and the Bearcats extended the lead to 63-52 on a Watkins jumper at the 5:25 mark of the fourth period. YSU got as close as seven at 66-59 on Arbanas' fifth triple with 2:48 remaining, but the Penguins did not score again.

Youngstown State went 15-for-25 from the field in the first half, but nine turnovers in the half kept the Penguins from keeping their big lead. YSU then cooled down to go 9-for-29 in the second half, including 4-for-15 in the fourth period.

The Penguins will celebrate their season at their year-end banquet on Saturday.