Lady Lions Clinch Third Straight Big Ten Title With Win Over Michigan
The Penn State Lady Lions (22-6, 13-3 Big Ten) clinched their third straight Big Ten championship, as they cruised past Michigan (14-12, 8-8 Big Ten), 77-62 in a fitting farewell to their four seniors, Saturday afternoon at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Before the game, seniors Maggie Lucas, Talia East, Dara Taylor and Ariel Edwards were recognized for their time at Penn State. The group is the third winningest class in Penn State history, now with 99 wins under their belts.
Michigan set out early in an attempt to try and spoil Senior Day for the Lady Lions, taking a quick lead off a turnover by junior forward Tori Waldner. But Penn State wasted no time striking back with a layup from senior guard Ariel Edwards on the next possession.
Michigan was able get two more scores before Penn State could do anything with the ball. Michigan held the lead until just under 15 minutes, when senior guard Maggie Lucas nailed her lone three of the game to give Penn State a one point lead.
The lead didn’t last long, though, as Michigan freshman guard Siera Thompson answered right away with a three of her own. There were two more lead changes before Edwards hit a jumper to tie it up at 16, with just over 12 minutes to play. Senior guard Maggie Lucas then hit two free throws to put Penn State ahead.
Once the Lady Lions had that lead, they didn’t relinquish it for the rest of the game. They closed out the half on a 10-4 run, leading 40-31 at the half.
Lucas had an injury scare as time expired, when she fell under the basket on a last second layup attempt. She hit the court hard and was writhing in pain for a few minutes, grabbing her left ankle, before she was able to get up and limp to the locker room. As she left the court, she threw her hands up to pump up the crowd.
After the game, Lucas explained “mentally (I was) just trying to get myself going, trying to feed off the crowd like I’ve been doing for four years, they really just fire me up.”
Lucas appeared to have healed up during halftime as she led the team out onto the court for second half warm-ups, and was fine the rest of the game.
Penn State was able to increase their lead to 14 early on in the second half, leading 50-36 at the first media timeout.
The Lady Lions grabbed their biggest lead of the game (22) off a jumper by Edwards in the paint with just over 11 minutes remaining. By the end of the game, all four seniors
were in double figures, with Edwards leading the way with 21 points. This was the second straight game of 20+ points for Edwards.
Senior forward/center Talia East said after the game that the biggest factor that led them to their third straight championship was that, “the freshmen bought into it (what we were playing for”.
“Every season is a journey and every team is on a journey to discover who they are and what they can accomplish,” said head coach Coquese Washington. “We came into this season...and how much we accomplished depended on the growth and the maturity of all thirteen players”.
The four seniors received a standing ovation from the crowd of over 6,000, as they were subbed out for the last time, with nineteen seconds left to play.
Next up for the team is the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, Indiana, March 6-9.
Anna Pitingolo is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Courtesy: (AP Photo/John Beale)