Penguins Lock Up Third Seed with 74-61 Win at Cleveland State

Chelsea Olson (Photo by Rob Hayes)
Chelsea Olson (Photo by Rob Hayes)

The Youngstown State women's basketball team made 13 3-pointers and had five players score in double figures to beat Cleveland State 74-61 at the Wolstein Center on Saturday afternoon.

The Penguins led for more than 37 minutes and went on a big 16-4 run in the fourth period to hold off the Vikings in the regular-season finale for both teams. Youngstown State finishes the regular season with a 21-8 record and a school-record 13 conference victories, and it will be the third seed in the 2019 Little Caesars Horizon League Women's Basketball Championship. Cleveland State finished the regular season 10-19 overall and 7-11 in the league, and it will be the seventh seed in the tournament.

Alison Smolinski made four 3-pointers in the first 12 minutes, and the senior from the Cleveland suburbs finished with five 3s and a game-high 19 points. Sarah Cash posted her first double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Chelsea Olson had a near triple-double with a career-best 12 assists, nine points and nine rebounds. McKenah Peters made four 3s for 12 points, Melinda Trimmer had 11 points and a career-high nine rebounds, and Mary Dunn finished with 10 points.

Savanna Crockett and Mariah Miller both had 16 points to lead Cleveland State.

The Penguins swept the season series with the Vikings for the second straight season and have beaten their nearest conference rivals in five straight meetings.

YSU had to find its points in a much different fashion in this meeting than in its 73-55 win over the Vikings in January. The Penguins pounded the ball inside for 50 points in the paint and attempted just 13 3-pointers in the win five weeks ago, but they went 13-for-28 from long distance at the Wolstein Center.

Four of the Penguins' first five baskets were from 3-point range, and Smolinski's third triple of the game put YSU up 14-10 at the 4:27 mark of the first period. That was the first time either team led by more than two, and the Penguins held the lead for the rest of the game.

Smolinski's putback on YSU's final possession of the first period gave her 13 points and put the Penguins up 20-12, and Trimmer nailed a 3 on the first possession of the second period to push the margin to double digits for the first time. A Peters 3 gave the Penguins their largest lead of the first half at 32-20 with 7:06 left, but YSU scored just 12 points of the next 13-plus minutes as Cleveland State cut into the deficit.

Mariah White's free throw with 1:54 left in the first half got the Vikings as close as 36-31, and the margin was 39-33 at halftime. White split a pair of free throws at the 4:47 mark of the third quarter to get Cleveland State within one at 44-43, but a Trimmer 3-pointer and five straight points by Dunn gave the Penguins some cushion at 52-43.

Cleveland State scored the final five points of the third period and the first two of the fourth to get within 54-52, and the margin was still just a basket at 58-55 less than six minutes remaining. That's when Trimmer hit another big 3-pointer at the 5:29 mark to kickstart a 16-4 run over the next five-plus minutes that decided the game. Trimmer also had the final two points in the run, and Smolinski delivered the dagger when her fifth 3 of the contest put the Penguins ahead 72-58 with 1:03 left.

Youngstown State finished 13-for-28 from 3-point range, and it shot 49.1 percent overall from the field. The Penguins had 18 assists on 28 field goals, and they held a 39-34 rebounding advantage.

Youngstown State will host sixth-seeded Milwaukee in the quarterfinals of #MotorCityMadness on Wednesday at 7 p.m. For ticket information, call the YSU Athletic Ticket Office at (330) 941-1YSU.