The much-improved Youngstown State Lady Penguins welcomed their longtime geographic rival, the Akron Zips, to town for a finals week matchup. The game was tied at 55 with just under five minutes to play, but Akron was able to clamp down and improve to 6-4 on the season, as they posted a 70-56 win at Youngstown State.
Akron carried a 31-25 lead into the locker room at the half thanks in part to shooting 44% from the floor. Rachel Tecca led a balanced Zips attack in the first half with seven points. Youngstown State got eight first half points from Boki Dimitrov including a couple of threes that kept YSU at a single digit deficit. The Penguins launched 18 threes in the first half, hitting five. The Zips also held a 20-14 rebounding advantage at the intermission.
The Penguins cut the Zips lead to 35-33 when Tieara Jones scored inside and was fouled. Jones scored her tenth point to cut the Akron lead to one point at the 12:49 mark, but but Tecca responded on the Zips next possession to keep the lead at three. Jones, a product of Rayen High School, again connected with 11:52 left in the game to make the score 41-40 in favor of Akron. Jones was having one of her best nights as a Penguin.
Sina King gave Akron a 45-40 lead on a layup, but Kenya Middlebrooks hit a three coming back to keep the Penguins close. Macey Nortey, who seems to hustle her heart out every game, had a steal and drove the court for a layup, and was fouled. Nortey hit the free throw putting the Penguins in front for the first time in the second half at 46-45.
Middlebrooks was in a zone, hitting threes at will, she had three of them in a six minute span, including one at the 7:15 mark to put the Penguins back in front, 52-51. Brandi Brown’s presence seemed like enough for Akron to really concentrate on shutting her down, allowing the role players like Middlebrooks, Nortey, and Jones ample chances to score.
Jasmine Mushington stepped up for the Zips and hit a couple of big baskets to give Akron back the lead at 59-55 with 3:54 left in the game. Akron’s 9-1 run put the Penguins into fouling mode with 1:24 left in the game. The Zips coasted home holding the Penguins to just one point over the final four and a half minutes.
Akron was paced by Tecca’s 19 points and 11 boards. Youngstown State got 15 from Jones and 14 from Middlebrooks. The Penguins finished 9-39 from three-point land. With the loss, YSU fell to 2-7 and will not play at home again in 2010.
After the game, Coach Boldon spoke about his team’s collapse down the stretch. ”We look at film and see the things we do well, and the things we don’t do so well, and we are doing more things not so well right now.”
Tieara Jones talked about a piece of the machine giving way each possession. ”We play good defense, but if four people are on the same page and one breaks down, it can hurt the whole team and we had some of that tonight. It wasn’t any one person in particular, just one of the four on the court would break down and it cost us.”