Penguins Outlast Milwaukee Down the Stretch to Advance in Motor City Madness

Sarah Cash (Photo by Rob Hayes)
Sarah Cash (Photo by Rob Hayes)

The Youngstown State women's basketball team outscored Milwaukee 22-11 over the final 8:30 of the game and outlasted the Panthers to win 64-58 in the quarterfinals of Motor City Madness on Wednesday at Beeghly Center.

YSU advances to the semifinals for the fifth time in the last seven years and improved to 16-1 on its home floor in 2018-19. The third-seeded Penguins will play the second-seeded Phoenix at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit on Monday for a chance to go to the title game.

Fifth-year senior Sarah Cash scored 15 points and grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds, and Alison Smolinski broke the Horizon League record for 3-pointers in a season with 98. Chelsea Olson matched Cash with 15 points, Melinda Trimmer scored nine of her 11 points in the second half, and Mary Dunn added 10 points.

Olson made the defensive play of the game when she blocked Lizzie Odegard's tying attempt from 3-point range with 25 seconds left. Trimmer went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the final 18.5 seconds to close out the win.

In a series that has full of close battles in recent years, this one was a 40-minute slugfest. There were 12 ties and 12 lead changes, and the largest lead for either team was six. That six-point margin didn't occur until the final minute.

Bre Cera led Milwaukee with 13 points, and four other Panthers finished with at least eight points. UWM's defense held the Penguins to 30.7 percent shooting for the first 31 minutes before YSU made 6-of-11 to close out the game.

Smolinski's record-breaking 3-pointer came at the first-quarter buzzer on a pass from Cash, who had grabbed one of her six offensive rebounds in the contest. Smolinski passed Senee Shearer's mark of 97 that was set in 2013-14, and it gave the Penguins' senior 251 in her career. The basket gave the Penguins a 20-17 lead, but Milwaukee scored the first seven points of the second period to go up 24-20 at the 5:09 mark.

YSU countered with its own 7-0 run, and Cash's 3-pointer with 3:08 remaining allowed the Penguins to reclaim a three-point edge at 27-24. Milwaukee scored the final four points of the half, and Cera's putback before the horn gave the Panthers a 28-27 halftime lead.

Olson scored the first five points of the second half to give YSU its first four-point lead of the game at 32-28, and the Penguins held the advantage until an Akaylah Hayes jumper capped a six-point spurt that put Milwaukee back up 40-38. The Panthers led 43-42 heading into the fourth, and they extended the lead to 47-42 when Megan Walstad scored on their first two possessions of the quarter.

YSU's offense got a spark when McKenah Peters converted a three-point play with 8:28 remaining from an inbounds pass with two seconds on the shot clock. The Penguins went on to go on an 8-0 run that Dunn capped with a free throw with 6:44 left, and they did not trail again.

Olson hit a big 3-pointer at the 5:10 mark to put YSU ahead 53-49, and her free throw 47 seconds later put the Penguins up by five.

Sydney Staver made Milwaukee's first 3-pointer of the game with 1:57 remaining to cut the deficit to 56-54, but Cash and Dunn score on consecutive YSU possessions to push the margin to six for the first time with 57.1 seconds on the clock. Lizzie Odegard hit a quick 3 on an out-of-bounds play to cut the difference in half, and Milwaukee got a stop on defense to set up an opportunity to tie it. Odegard got the chance again from straight away, but Olson jumped out and blocked the shot with 25 seconds left to set up Trimmer's clutch free throws.

Trimmer made two with 18.5 seconds remaining to push the margin to 62-57, and Staver split two attempts for Milwaukee. The Panthers fouled Smolinski to extend the game, and the YSU missed both attempts but grabbed her own rebound. She passed off to Trimmer, who finished off the scoring with two more free throws with 8.7 seconds left.

Youngstown State finished shooting 36 percent from the field while committing 17 turnovers, but it outscored the Panthers 22-8 at the free-throw line. Milwaukee shot 40 percent, and it had nine steals and nine blocks on the defensive end.