Penguins Battle But Fall 76-62 in Opening Round of WNIT

Melinda Trimmer (Photo by Rob Hayes)
Melinda Trimmer (Photo by Rob Hayes)

Cincinnati, Ohio -- The Youngstown State women's basketball team showed the same fight that led to 22 wins during the season, but the Penguins saw their memorable campaign come to a close with a 76-62 loss at Cincinnati in the opening round of the WNIT on Thursday.

YSU led the Bearcats 17-15 at the end of the first period, but Cincinnati had a 20-8 edge in the second period and was able to hold off a Penguins charge that trimmed an 18-point deficit down to three with just over seven minutes remaining in the game.

After Mary Dunn's basket made the score 57-54 at the 7:27 mark in the fourth, the Bearcats scored 13 straight points in a three-minute stretch to go up 70-54.

Youngstown State's season ends with a 22-10 record, and Cincinnati improves to 22-10 and advances to the second round to play either Minnesota or Northern Iowa.

All three YSU seniors scored in double figures in their final game wearing the Red and White. Melinda Trimmer scored a career-high 17 points, and Alison Smolinski matched her in the scoring column while adding five 3-pointers to her YSU and Horizon League single-season record total. Sarah Cash added 12 points in her record-setting 135th career game.

Andeija Puckett came off the bench to score 16 points, and Antoinette Miller also had 16 points to lead the Bearcats.

The lead changed hands six times in the first quarter, and the Penguins scored the final six points of the period to take a 17-15 lead. That ended up being their final advantage of the night at Fifth Third Arena.

IImar'I Thomas converted a three-point play on UC's first possession of the second quarter to put the Bearcats up 18-17, and Chelsea Olson split a pair of free throws with 8:18 remaining to tie the score for the final time. The Bearcats scored the next seven points to go up 25-18, and they scored the final four points of the half after a Smolinski 3 with 2:13 remaining to take a 35-25 lead at halftime.

The Bearcats then scored nine straight points midway through the third period to take their largest lead of the night at 49-31 at the 3:33 mark. Trimmer converted a three-point play 54 seconds later, and that started the rally for the Penguins. Smolinski made two 3s in the final two minutes of the quarter, and YSU got to within 55-46 heading into the fourth.

Youngstown State then scored the first six points of the fourth on two field goals by Trimmer and two Dunn free throws to get within 55-52 with 8:18 remaining. Dunn's basket from Olson in transition at the 7:27 mark made the score 58-55, but the Bearcats held the Penguins scoreless for almost four minutes as they pulled away. The lead reached 74-57 with 2:46 remaining, and Smolinski made her 109th 3 of the season and 262nd of her career with 1:39 remaining. YSU head coach John Barnes called timeout, and Cash, Smolinski and Trimmer exited together with the score 74-60.

YSU outshot Cincinnati 43.6 percent to 42 percent from the field, but Cincinnati made five more field goals and four more free throws. The Bearcats were a perfect 13-for-13 from the free-throw line. UC also held a 41-30 edge on the glass, and it had turned 13 offensive rebounds into 14 second-chance points.