Akron, OH -- The Youngstown State Penguins met in Akron University's Joseph A. Rhodes Arena tonight, in an attempt to round out their recent three game winning streak to a fourth against the Zips. Despite the streak, and the Penguins' 38-15 all-time record over the Zips, they weren't able to seal the deal and lost 74-49.
Youngstown's Sarah Cash, Horizon League's Player of the Week, and Akron's Anita Brown, named MAC Women's Basketball Player of the Week, clashed from the tip off, trading layups within minutes, and making a good argument for a battle of titles. However, rather than becoming a high wattage contest between two stars, the game tapered to a classic showdown of offensive strategy.
Early on, it was clear that Brown didn't need to carry the Zips - Greta Burry seemed to find her footing in the paint early in the first quarter, making each of her three attempted shots. Hannah Plybon also matched Anita Brown's 17 total game points, and wasn't afraid to be aggressive early, either.
"I think today it was easy for everyone to score," Brown said of her teammates' early contributions. "We did a great job of sharing the ball, moving the ball, and we really took our time and didn't force any shots. It was easy for me, but it was easy as a whole."
The Zips' game plan further set the tone of Akron's offensive approach, as the Zips had four fast breaks and shot 26 of their 36 field goals from the paint in the first half. In contrast, to this affinity to attack the basketball, the Penguins were more comfortable with launching from the perimeter, which led to their 25% field goal shooting in the first half, and from behind the line, as well.
The Zips' offense continually brought tangible energy, darting back and forth in the lane and making very physical exchanges that forced the Penguin defense to chase. The Penguins' offense was all about spacing for their players, and opted for long, thus leading to long passes across the court - a risk that forced Akron to reconfigure their defense, but ultimately wasn't worth the multiple lost possessions.
Following Akron's 36-21 halftime lead, Youngstown's defense prickled as they returned in the third, posting up against the layups that had built their deficit. The Penguins fought to close their 17-point gap in the last four minutes of the fourth quarter.
After Janae Jackson successfully shouldered her way to the basket, Cash's flying pass to her ended up in the hands of Anita Brown, who was left with an open run to sink another for the Zips. Despite an exhaustive effort ‘til the bitter end, the Penguins never managed to overcome the 22-point hurdle from the third.
Ultimately, Youngstown played a prettier game, filled with finesse plays, but Akron's sheer dominance, physically, simply overwhelmed the Penguins . It's said that manners make the man, but no amount of well-mannered strategy could overcome the heart that's left by a team who plays so close to the chest.