Sarah Cash scored the go-ahead basket with 4.3 seconds left, and the Youngstown State women's basketball fought off a big Northern Arizona rally for a 69-67 win on Saturday at Beeghly Center.
The Penguins led by as many as 18 in the second period, but the Lumberjacks outscored the Penguins 23-9 in the third period and led 50-49 at the end of the third period. YSU forced a turnover, one of 21 by NAU in the contest, to start the fourth period, and Cash scored to put the Penguins up 51-50. YSU did not trail again.
Northern Arizona tied the score three times in the fourth, the final time on a jumper by Kenna McDavis with 25.2 seconds left. The Penguins called timeout and advanced the ball to set up the final bucket. Nikki Arbanas hit Cash on the right low block, and Cash finished with 4.3 seconds left. The Lumberjacks called timeout to advance the ball but did not get off a potential tying shot.
Cash finished with 24 points and four steals, and three other Penguins scored in double figures. McKenah Peters came off the bench to score 13, Arbanas had 12 and Indiya Benjamin scored 10. Alison Smolinski had four steals and six rebounds, and the Penguins finished with 13 steals. That was their most since the first game of the 2015-16 season.
Youngstown State was plus-12 in turnover margin, 21-9, and outscored the Lumberjacks 23-12 off turnovers. YSU also outpaced NAU 13-4 on second chance points, which helped offset the Lumberjacks' 53.1 percent shooting. Free throws were also a big factor as YSU was 15-for-20 and Northern Arizona was 9-for-19, including 6-for-13 in the fourth period.
Arbanas hit three early 3-pointers, and the Penguins led 9-0 just over two minutes into the game. Youngstown State took a 12-2 lead on a Cash free throw with 7:07 left in the first period, and the Penguins led by double digits for all but two of the final 17 minutes of the first half. YSU led 22-7 at the end of the first, and its largest lead came at 40-22 on a 3-pointer by Peters with 1:38 left in the second period.
Northern Arizona scored the final five points of the half to trim the deficit down to 40-27, and it opened the third period on a 14-2 run to get within 42-41 at the 5:47 mark. The Penguins did not surrender the lead until Davis blocked a shot, got the rebound and went on to hit a 3-pointer in the final minute of the third period to put NAU up 50-49. Davis had 11 points, five rebounds and three blocks in the third period.
Cash scored on YSU's first possession of the fourth period to put the Penguins up 51-50, and YSU did not fall behind again. Treys by Smolinski and Arbanas within a minute of each other capped an 8-1 run and put YSU up 57-51, but NAU tied the score at 58 with 5:06 left. Cash's basket and ensuing free throw quickly put YSU up 61-58, and the margin remained within a possession until Benjamin hit a long two with 1:41 left to give the Penguins a 66-62 lead. Davis hit a 3-pointer to cut the margin to one with 42 seconds left, and she followed with a jumper after Benjamin split a pair of free throws. That led to Cash's game-winner.
Youngstown State will conclude non-conference play as it hosts Penn State-Beaver on Wednesday in the Fifth Annual Field Trip Game. Tipoff at Beeghly Center is set for 11 a.m.