The Youngstown State women's basketball team battled to get within two possessions in the final minutes, but a long scoring lull to start the second half was too much to overcome in a 65-56 loss at No. 24/25 Green Bay on Thursday at the Kress Center.
The Penguins trailed the Phoenix just 26-22 at halftime, but Green Bay scored the first 15 points of the third period and was able to hold off a big comeback bid by YSU in the fourth. Youngstown State shaved five points off the deficit in the closing minutes of the third, and it made seven 3-pointers in the final 10 minutes to fight back and get as close as five points in the fourth.
YSU trailed just 54-49 after an Indiya Benjamin 3-pointer with 3:58 left, but the Penguins went without a field goal for more than three minutes to hurt their upset bid.
"I was proud of the team for competing as hard as it did. It's hard to win on the road and doubly hard to win at Green Bay," YSU head coach John Barnes said. "I thought we raised our level of competitiveness. There was that stretch in the third quarter where we weren't sharp, and that was the difference in the game. We need to learn from that and compete for all four quarters."
Benjamin finished with a team-high 12 points, and Chelsea Olson and Nikki Arbanas both finished with nine. Olson, a freshman who was among Wisconsin's top scorers last year, hit three 3-pointers in the first five minutes of the fourth period playing in her home state as the Penguins made their charge. Kelley Wright scored a season-high seven points off the bench.
Youngstown State finished the game making a season-high 14 3-pointers in 39 attempts while being held to five two-point field goals.
Karly Murphy scored a game-high 14 points, and Jessica Lindstrom had 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Phoenix. That tandem helped Green Bay score 12 points in the paint and four more from the free-throw line in the decisive third period.
Fouls played a big part in the game to say the least as YSU was whistled for 26 fouls to Green Bay's 10, which led to the Phoenix attempting 22 more free throws. YSU's starting frontcourt of Sarah Cash and Anne Secrest both fouled out, as did backup forward Mary Dunn.
The Penguins showed that it would be a competitive game early and trailed by just one in the final minute of the first half.
A 3-pointer by Cash and a driving basket by Benjamin gave the Penguins a 5-3 lead at the 5:10 mark of the opening period, but YSU went almost five minutes without scoring as the Phoenix scored nine straight points to go up 12-5. The Penguins' defense kept them in the game, though. Cash ended the YSU drought with a basket with 44 seconds left, and Benjamin found a wide-open Secrest with 10 seconds remaining to get the Penguins to within 12-9. Allie LeClaire spun a basket in at the end of the period to put Green Bay up 14-9.
Benjamin's 3-pointer on the first possession of the second period made the score 14-12, and the Penguins got within a pair two more times before a McKenah Peters free throw at the 1:22 mark cut the deficit to 23-22. LeClaire hit a 3 in the final seconds to push the Green Bay lead to 26-22 at halftime.
The Phoenix then scored the first 15 points of the third period, holding YSU scoreless for the first 7:33 of the half. That allowed them to take a 41-22 lead before a Kelley Wright 3-pointer got the Penguins in the scoring column at the 2:27 mark. That triple by Wright sparked a mini 8-3 run to end the quarter, which set the stage for an exciting fourth.
After Green Bay scored the first four points of the fourth period to go up 48-30, Olson's 3-point barrage keyed a 14-3 run for the Penguins that got them within 51-44 with 5:30 left. Benjamin's 3-pointer 90 seconds later got the Penguins as close as 54-49, and her free throw at the 3:29 mark made the score 56-50.
YSU had a chance to cut more into the lead as neither team scored for the next two minutes. The Penguins missed two free throws and a 3-pointer on one trip down the floor, and they had two turnovers before Lindstrom hit a 3 at the 1:29 mark to push Green Bay's lead to 59-50. The Phoenix led by 12 inside of a minute, and late 3s by Peters and Benjamin chipped the final margin to nine.
Youngstown State will play at Milwaukee at 3 p.m. on Saturday. The game will be broadcast live on 570 WKBN and ESPN3.