Green Bay recovers to beat YSU women, 66-45

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Indiya Benjamin (3) of Youngstown State fires up a 3-pointer against the defense of Green Bay’s Karly Murphy on Monday during a Horizon League semifinal game.

DETROIT — Simplicity. It worked for Kevin Borseth.

It worked Monday for his top-seeded Green Bay women’s basketball team during its 66-45 win over fifth-seeded Youngstown State in a Horizon League women’s basketball semifinal at Little Caesars Arena.

The Phoenix put together a 24-7 run that went back to about two minutes before halftime. This team has seen it before. There was a 21-0 third-quarter shutout of the Penguins more than two weeks ago in Youngstown.

But this was different. There were no answers at halftime as YSU held a 28-26 lead.

Borseth couldn’t come to a consensus with his other coaches. How should his team approach a third quarter that has been so kind to Green Bay before? YSU (16-15) held a rebounding advantage against the Phoenix, one of the keys to the game for the Penguins.

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Green Bay's Karly Murphy, left, and teammate Allie LeClaire, background, trap Youngstown State's Sarah Cash in the first half of Monday's Horizon League semifinal in Detroit.

Not so in the second half as Green Bay started to maneuver its way into the post with Karly Murphy coming off the bench for six of her eight points in the third quarter. The Phoenix controlled the boards, 35-29.

It didn’t hurt that Green Bay was 9 of 16 from the floor, while YSU was 2 of 9 in the third quarter.

“We sat and we talked for 15 minutes at halftime,” Borseth said. “Coaches are thinking. ‘What are we going to do? What are we going to do?’ We came up with actually nothing. Right at the start of the second we decided to go with a generic-type movement.

“It was blind luck. It really was. It got us into our rhythm. A lot of times rebounding is if you don’t make shots, the other team will outrebound you.”

The Phoenix are well on their way to another Horizon League title and 18th NCAA Tournament appearance. Green Bay has 21 conference championships, dating back to the days of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference. The Phoenix face Wright State in today’s league final, starting at noon.

It’s something this Green Bay team (28-3), always one the best mid-major teams in the country, takes pride in year in and year out.

This year, it’s because of the senior duo of Allie LeClaire and Jessica Lindstrom, who had 33 of the team’s points. Lindstrom had 17, while LeClaire put in 16. The two only had a combined 13 at halftime. Jen Wellnitz added 14 points for the game.

Mary Dunn, who had six of her seven team-high rebounds by halftime, said her team felt the pressure of Green Bay’s inside presence. The Phoenix held an 18-10 advantage in rebounding in the second half.

“We kept going for the rebounds, but they have some very good offensive and defensive rebounders,” she said. “Sometimes they got the advantage of us. That is something we do need to fix.”

YSU coach John Barnes was quick to jump in after Dunn’s response to say Lindstrom was one of the best rebounders in the country — leading her team with nine rebounds.

This might be a mid-major team, but it plays as a high major — led by Lindstrom who has had more than 1,000 rebounds in three years at Green Bay.

“She’s by far the best rebounder that’s ever played there,” Barnes said. “To be able to shoot the 3 like she does and attack. She’s unbelievable. She can control the game by herself.

“In terms of the rebounding situation, I thought the kids did a great job. They’re outrebouding teams by almost 11 rebounds a game in conference play. When your shots aren’t going in, there’s more opportunities for them to get defensive rebounds.”

Lindstrom said her team just took advantage of the opportunity presented to them.

“If you keep imposing your will, good things will happen,” she said.

YSU’s Sarah Cash and Indiya Benjamin, who had a combined 37 points in Sunday’s win against Milwaukee, were limited to 21 as a tandem against Green Bay. Cash had a team-high 12, while Benjamin had all her seven points in the first quarter as YSU took a 16-10 lead.

“We tried to keep it out of her hands as much as we could,” Borseth said of Cash.

“What we emphasized is keeping a hand up on Indiya so she couldn’t hit those 3s on us,” Wellnitz said.

The Horizon League ranks 11th in the country because of teams like Green Bay, IUPUI and Wright State.

The Penguins are likely going to play in the Women’s Basketball Invitational, a tournament they played in two seasons ago when they went to the semifinals.

There’s a slight chance YSU could be in the WNIT. That happened most recently in 2015 when the Penguins lost to Duquesne at home.

Benjamin, a senior point guard, is the Penguins’ all-time leader in games played, starts and assists. No reflection on an outstanding career. Not right now.

“I’m very confident we’re going to be able to play in a postseason tournament,” she said. “I’m still locked in and trying to get as many wins as possible before I’m done for good.”