Lady Lions Use First Half Run To Spark Win Over Michigan State
For seniors Alex Bentley and Nikki Greene, Sunday afternoon marked the final time they would step onto the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center in front of a Penn State “Whiteout.” In front of a season-high crowd of 6,325, the Lady Lions (20-3, 10-1) shrugged off a slow start to knock off the Michigan State Spartans (18-5, 6-4) 71-56.
Bentley scored 15 of her game-high 24 points in the second half and junior guard Maggie Lucas chipped in with 19.
Penn State struggled out of the gate, missing seven of their first nine shots. A Becca Mills three pointer with 7:36 remaining in the first half extended the Spartans lead to nine at 20-11.
Out of a media timeout, Bentley knocked down two foul shots to cut the lead to 20-13. Shortly thereafter, junior guard Dara Taylor stole the inbounds pass, hit a streaking Lucas at midcourt, who then found Green underneath the basket for a wide open layup. Sixty seconds later and Penn State had pulled within one at 20-19. The Lady Lions proceeded to finish the first half on a 21-7 run to take a 32-27 lead into halftime.
“We always feed off of our defense,” Bentley said in regard to the run to close out the half. “Dara Taylor had some nice steals there and we kept pressuring, kept running.”
Penn State came in to the game ranked second in the conference in steals at 11.5 per game. Taylor, Bentley and Lucas had four steals a piece and as a team, the Lady Lions forced 22 turnovers resulting in 29 points.
Game in and game out, the Lady Lions seem to find a way to go on these eight to ten point spurts that come directly from their defense. At home, they know that feeding off the crowd’s energy is vital.
“The crowd was fantastic,” said head coach Coquese Washington. “We’ve got a bunch of dramatic players on our team and it just feeds us and gives us a lot of energy.”
With Bentley and Lucas struggling from the field in the first half, Penn State worked to get the ball down low to Greene. Greene scored nine of her 13 points in the first half and was a big reason why the Lady Lions kept the game close in the first 15 minutes. Sophomore forward Tori Waldner was a key piece off of the bench, recording a block and three steals in only seven minutes of action.
The win marked the first time since the 2003-2004 season that the Lady Lions have swept the season series against Michigan State. The Spartans’ 75-65 victory at the Bryce Jordan Center on January 7, 2012 was also the last time that Washington’s club fell at home.
“Michigan State is a good team,” Washington said. “They’re a tough team. So anytime you can beat them, because of how they play, it speaks loudly of what this team accomplished.”
The Lady Lions now take to the road as they travel to Iowa City on Thursday to battle the Hawkeyes. They return home next Wednesday to face Illinois.
Matt Lawrence is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and economics. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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