The Youngstown State women's basketball team used a hot start to build a big lead and held on late to earn a significant 60-59 win on Monday at Northern Kentucky.
With the victory, the Penguins won for the sixth straight time on the road and notched their eighth win in the last 10 games. YSU also guaranteed itself a spot in the top six of the Horizon League standings and earned a bye to the quarterfinals of the Horizon League Tournament. Youngstown State is now 14-14 overall and 10-7 in Horizon League play, and Northern Kentucky drops to 8-19 overall and 6-10 in conference games.
YSU made seven of its first 10 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc and led 23-9 after 13 minutes. The Norse fought back to get within four at halftime and rallied to get within one with 2:54 left in the fourth. YSU got a stop on defense, and Indiya Benjamin hit a big layup with 1:42 left to push the lead to 57-54. After another Penguins stop with less than 40 seconds left, Benjamin drew a foul on a drive to force the Norse to extend the game by sending YSU to the free-throw line.
Nikki Arbanas split a pair of charity tosses with 11.2 seconds left to make the score 58-54, and Mikayla Terry missed a big bonus free throw with 6.9 seconds on the clock that would have brought the Norse to within one again. Arbanas then made two free throws with 4.7 seconds left to give YSU a two-possession lead at 60-56, and Samari Mowbray hit an uncontested 3-pointer at the buzzer for the final tally.
Arbanas finished with a team-high 14 points, and she made three of YSU's nine 3-pointers in the contest. Perhaps more importantly, she held NKU leading scorer Molly Glick to five points and helped force her into five turnovers. Sarah Cash added 12 points, eight of which came in the fourth quarter, and McKenah Peters had 11 points.
Terry matched Arbanas with 14 points in her final home game to lead NKU.
Youngstown State led from wire to wire, and its first seven field goals of the game were all from beyond the 3-point line. YSU led 18-9 at the end of the first period, and Cash's bucket at the 8:30 mark of the second gave the Penguins their first two-point basket and a 23-9 advantage. NKU allowed just three field goals the rest of the half, and it outscored the Penguins 6-1 over the final 3:30 to get to within 31-27.
Youngstown State scored the first seven points of the second half on two Dunn baskets and an Arbanas triple to extend the lead to 11 and force an NKU timeout. That allowed the Norse to regroup, and they scored the next five points over the next four minutes to keep the game close. YSU led 46-40 at the end of the third.
Cash put the Penguins up eight twice in the first two minutes of the fourth, but a 3-pointer by Grayson Rose brought NKU to within 51-49 with 6:23 left. Cash scored the next four points to protect the lead, and NKU got within one at 55-54 with 2:54 left. Benjamin's clutch drive put the Penguins up 57-54 with 1:42 left and set the stage for Arbanas to close out the win.
Youngstown State finished 9-of-26 from 3-point range, which helped offset NKU making 10 more free throws than the Penguins. YSU held a 37-28 edge in rebounding.
Youngstown State will celebrate Senior Day on Saturday at Beeghly Center against Cleveland State. Tipoff in the regular-season finale is set for 4:15 p.m., and Indiya Benjamin, Morgan Olson and Kelley Wright will be honored prior to the game. Fans will receive a YSU Team Photo, courtesy of Medical Mutual, WBCB and TV-21 WFMJ.