Penguins Show Grit to Beat Milwaukee in OT Thriller

Sarah Cash (Photo by David Dermer)
Sarah Cash (Photo by David Dermer)

The Youngstown State women's basketball team battled back to force overtime and then went on to pull out a thrilling 86-85 win over Milwaukee on Thursday night at the Beeghly Center.

The key victory improves the Guins to 13-13 overall and 9-6 in the Horizon League while the Panthers fall to 17-9 and 8-6. The win was the Penguins' fifth straight in Horizon League play.

The Penguins trailed by four points, 71-67, with 1:31 remaining in regulation. Kelley Wright knocked down a pair of free throws with 1:09 left to make the contest 71-69, and UWM's Bailey Farley split a pair of free throws one second later giving the Panthers a 72-69 lead. On the Guins' next possession, Chelsea Olson drained a 3-pointer with 48.3 seconds left to tie the contest, but the Panthers went back on top with 27.4 seconds left on a layup by Steph Kostowicz. After YSU called timeout with 18.6 seconds, Indiya Benjamin was cool as a cucumber making a game-tying layup with 8.3 seconds left.

The Panthers had a chance at the end of regulation to win the contest, however, Jenny Lindner's layup rimmed out and YSU grabbed the rebound as time expired.

Overtime was just as fast and furious as the end of regulation.

YSU scored the first three points of overtime, and it never lost the lead. Olson made two free throws and Sarah Cash split a pair to make the score 77-74, and Kostowicz and Cash traded baskets to make the score 79-78 with 2:36 remaining. The Guins made moves from the free-throw line as Nikki Arbanas made a pair with 1:58, and Cash made the second of two with 1:34 left giving YSU an 82-78 lead. UWM's Lizzie Odegard scored her first points of the night with 1:19 left cutting the deficit to 82-80. 

With 52 seconds left, Olson made a pair of free throws pushing the advantage back up to four. Once again UWM answered quickly as McKaela Schmelzer scored with 35.7 seconds remaining. YSU was then able to take just over 30 seconds off the game clock as Cash scored with 5.2 seconds left on a pass from Benjamin. Milwaukee's Bailey Farley drained a deep three with 2.2 seconds left to cut the margin to one. After YSU called timeout and moved the ball to midcourt, Arbanas found Benjamin in the back court and she dribbled out the clock.

The Penguins were 16-of-20 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and overtime, and YSU was 20-of-24 for the game. Youngstown State outscored the Panthers by 10 at the free-throw line and by 17 off turnovers.

For the contest, Olson scored 20 points, while Cash had 19 and Benjamin had 16. The Guins shot 40.9 percent making 27-of-66 attempts while knocking down 12-of-38 from beyond the 3-point arc. 

The lead changed hands seven times in the first five minutes before an Arbanas 3-pointer at the 5:16 mark started a 5-0 run for the Penguins that put them ahead 14-10. YSU did not trail again until the third quarter.

A McKenah Peters triple gave the Penguins their largest lead of the first period at 20-15, and YSU extended the lead to seven three times in the second before taking their largest advantage of the half at 33-24 with 2:29 left. Milwaukee kept YSU scoreless the rest of the half and scored the final five points of the six points of the half on three free throws and a banked 3-pointer by Kostowicz. 

Milwaukee tied the score less than a minute into the second half, and a Brandi Bisping 3-pointer gave the Panthers a 41-38 lead at the 6:08 mark. UWM's lead was 43-40 after a Kostowicz bucket, but the Penguins scored seven straight points and led 51-47 after three quarters.

Youngstown State will host No. 19/15 Green Bay on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Beeghly Center. The event will be packed with promotions as the Penguins will host their annual Play4Kay game to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer. Fans will receive a Stadium Cup courtesy of Lyden Oil Company, Handel's Ice Cream and TV-21, and it will be the final game this season for the Handel's Ice Cream Scoops and Hoops and Better With Burgan "Mortgage Mania Challenge" promotions.