By Rick Henneman
The Youngstown State University women’s basketball team (4-7) ended their non-conference schedule on a high note with an 84-71 victory over Point Park University (13-3).
This was the fourth annual Chick-Fil-A Field trip game, which brings local elementary schools to the game as a break from school.
YSU freshman forward Mary Dunn started the first four minutes of the game by scoring all six points for the Penguins.
“Mary Dunn has done a great job offensively for us,” YSU head coach John Barnes said. “She is big, strong and has great hands. We are very happy to have her.”
YSU and Point Park traded blows for much of the first quarter until YSU point guard Indiya Benjamin hit back-to-back threes to put the Penguins up 16-14.
Benjamin surpassed 125 career 3-pointers during the game, passing former YSU great Brandi Brown for 15th all-time in school history.
Point Park entered this game plagued with injuries. They started the game without three opening day starters but forward Ja’Nia McPhatter and center Baylee Buleca helped fill the void.
McPhatter led the game with 10 total rebounds while Buleca finished with a game-high 24 points.
“She [Buleca] was excellent,” Barnes said. “She would be a great player in our league. She just went to work down there and we had a hard time stopping her.”
The second quarter had a number of lead changes. The momentum eventually shifted towards the Penguins when senior guard Jenna Hirsch hit a three with 5:20 left in the half.
Hirsch continued to battle and created a turnover on the next possession then made another three with 4:32 left to put YSU up 28-25.
Junior guard Kelley Wright finished the first half strong with eight points in the last three minutes.
YSU Freshman Natalie Myers said that Barnes made a big adjustment to their defense during a timeout.
“Our defense was struggling so he told us that we were going into a full court press. Last game we made a run while we were in the full court press so that’s what we did. We pressured them, forced some turnovers and switched the momentum.”
That momentum came after a timeout with 5:56 left in the third quarter by PPU. That adjustment lead to YSU going on a 14-4 run to put them up 61-49.
The new defensive style made an immediate impact and YSU never looked back after that.
YSU entered the fourth quarter with a 67-55 lead.
Point Park began to rack up the fouls in the fourth and YSU made most of their chances at the foul line, finishing the game 9 of 10 as a team.
The Penguins were impressive statistically as well, outscoring Point Park in every quarter and getting 27 points off of the bench.
Both Dunn and Myers set new career-highs in points with 21 and nine respectively.
“I like knowing that the team can rely on me when we need points,” Dunn said. “I’m really thankful for my teammates because they are the ones getting the ball in to me. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to do any of this. It feels really good right now.”
Along with the career-highs set during the game, Indiya Benjamin set a season-high for assists with 10 and Jenna Hirsch finished with a season-high of six rebounds.
YSU will look to start their conference slate off on the right foot as they travel to take on Cleveland State University on Dec. 31.
PPU 71, YSU 84
PPU (13-3) — Buleca Baylee 12-0-24, Maryssa Agurs 5-4-14, Ja’Nia McPhatter 5-0-11, Shaniya Rivers 3-3-10, Tyra James 2-1-7, Celina DiPietro 1-2-5. Totals: 28-10-71.
YSU (4-7) — Mary Dunn 10-1-21, Kelley Wright 5-2-15, Indiya Benjamin 5-0-14, Jenna Hirsch 4-2-13, Natalie Myers 3-2-9, Mailee Jones 2-0-4, Tamira Ford 1-2-4, Morgan Olson 1-0-2, Morgan Brunner 1-0-2. Totals: 32-9-84.
PPU 17 18 20 16 — 71
YSU 20 20 27 17 — 84
3-point field goals: PPU 5 (James 2, McPhatter, DiPietro, Rivers); YSU 11 (Benjamin 4, Hirsch 3, Wright 3, Myers).
Rebounds: PPU 33 (McPhatter 10, Buleca 8, Rivers 4, Agurs 4, DiPietro 2, James 2, Baylie Mook, Team 2); YSU 39 (Ford 7, Myers 5, Hirsch 5, Dunn 4, Alison Smolinski 3, Wright 3, Jones 2, Olson 2, Brunner 2, Benjamin, Team 5).
Assists: PPU 14 (Rivers 5, Agurs 3, James 2, DiPietro 2, McPhatter, Buleca); YSU 28 (Benjamin 10, Hirsch 6, Wright 3, Myers 3, Jones 2, Ford, Olson, Jen Oduho, Smolinski).