Not this time
YSU women hold off Milwaukee for OT win
YOUNGSTOWN — You could hear Indiya Benjamin let out a yell of excitement as she left the Youngstown State basketball film room, after the postgame press conference following the Penguins’ 86-85 victory in overtime.
The energetic YSU senior point guard knew exactly how much Thursday’s victory against Milwaukee meant.
That buzzer-beater by the Panthers a month ago. The Penguins knew full well that game should’ve been theirs.
Thursday, Benjamin didn’t want that to happen again. She took matters in her own hands with the full blessing of YSU coach John Barnes.
The shot clock was winding down as the Penguins held a two-point lead late in overtime. Should she drive again and add to her 16 points? No, she found the Penguins’ go-to player, Sarah Cash. The Lordstown native took the pass, posted up and shot a 4-foot jumper from the side before the shot clock expired. Benjamin notched her seventh assist with 5.2 seconds left in overtime.
“Sarah made a BIG shot,” Barnes said.
Benjamin said Cash, who had 19 points off the bench, hesitated to shoot that shot at the beginning of the game.
“I was happy she had the confidence to knock that shot down,” Benjamin said.
Milwaukee’s Bailey Farley, who had 13 points, took the inbounds in front of her bench following the Panthers timeout and hit a 3-pointer at the top of the key.
Time out YSU (13-13, 9-6 Horizon League).
Benjamin took the ball in the backcourt made a quick semicircle and ran out the clock, even tripping over a Milwaukee player’s foot and falling near the media table on the Beeghly Center floor.
She got up and celebrated YSU’s seventh win in the last eight games, which moves the Penguins into fifth place in the Horizon League standings, a half game up on Milwaukee (17-9, 8-6). YSU is a half-game behind fourth-place Wright State (18-8, 9-5) which beat the Penguins in both meetings. Cleveland State (18-8, 10-5), which beat first-place Green Bay (22-3, 12-2) Thursday, is in third. IUPUI (19-6, 11-3) is in second.
Nationally-ranked Green Bay comes to YSU Saturday, starting at 1 p.m.
Before worrying about the No. 19 Phoenix, the Penguins had to beat a Milwaukee team that virtually exhausted players and coaches alike. Five out of the last six contests between the two have been decided by four points or fewer.
YSU started off the game by forcing 12 Milwaukee turnovers and getting seven steals — ultimately getting 22 points off of Milwaukee’s 19 miscues. YSU had 17 assists and nine turnovers.
The Penguins wanted to set the tempo early and box out because the Panthers had close to 20 offensive rebounds in the first meeting.
“Honestly, it was so close and back and forth the whole game that fortunately we were able to make some plays down the stretch,” Barnes said.
The Penguins shot 8 of 10 from the free-throw line in overtime, but saw Milwaukee’s Steph Kostowicz foul out with a game-high 28 points with 52 seconds left in the final 5 minutes.
“It was big,” said YSU’s Chelsea Olson, who had a team-high 20 points. “For her to be out, it definitely put a wrench in their plan.”
Benjamin split the Milwaukee defense with 8.3 seconds left in overtime to tie the game at 74, giving the Panthers a chance to win it and edge YSU once again.
Milwaukee took the ball off the inbounds and worked it into Jenny Linder, who had 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Her shot at the end of regulation bounced off the rim and into the hands of Olson, eventually forcing overtime.
“Our main goal was to find a way,” said Olson, who has won four straight Horizon League Freshman of the Week honors. “We definitely found a way to get the win.”