Lady Lions Best Minnesota Despite Poor Shooting
It was far from the type of offensive performance head coach Coquese Washington hoped for Thursday night at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Penn State Lady Lions (16-2, 6-0) only shot 35 percent from the field, but they forced 23 turnovers and recorded 18 offensive rebounds in an ugly 64-59 victory over the Minnesota Lady Gophers.
Maggie Lucas continued a phenomenal junior campaign with a game-high 26 points on 9-for-18 shooting. Nikki Green struggled offensively missing her first seven shots before knocking down three of four down the stretch to propel the Lady Lions.
“As she said, I think she was a little more patient,” Washington said of Green’s second half improvements. “She was just aggressive, (she) didn’t worry about foul trouble or double teams.”
Minnesota continues to make strides as a program and gave the heavily favored Lady Lions a run for their money on the road. The Lady Gophers defensively were able to keep Alex Bentley in check holding the Penn State senior to 12 points on 6-16 from the field.
Sophomore guard Rachel Banham paced Minnesota with 19 points and caught the attention of head coach Pam Borton.
“Rachel has really been struggling recently, but I think this was one of the best games she has played,” said Borton.
The upset bid was hampered by 23 Minnesota turnovers, 11 of which coming off of Penn State steals. Junior point guard Dara Taylor led the team with three steals including a game-clinching one near the end of the game.
With 12 seconds left, and Penn State clinging to a 62-59 lead, Banham missed a three-pointer from the right wing. Minnesota forward Kionna Kellogg came down with the offensive rebound and sent a pass back to Banham, but Taylor stole the pass and hit a streaking Lucas who retreated and ran an extra five seconds off the clock before being fouled.
Penn State appeared to be puling ahead for good after scoring four quick points out of the eight-minute media timeout. At that time the Lady Lions had extended their lead to 52-47, their largest lead of the game.
After a Minnesota time out, the Lady Gophers answered with four straight points cutting the lead to one. From there, it remained a one-possession game until Lucas knocked down two free throws in the final seconds.
Green finished with nine points, becoming the 35th player in program history with 1,000 career points. Green becomes the third member of the current Penn State team to reach that milestone joining Lucas and Bentley.
“It’s a wonderful asset to have as a team,” Washington said of the three. “To have three players of that caliber that can carry the load at any time.”
Penn State extends their winning-streak to 10; although it’s the second game in a row the Lady Lions have failed to shoot 40 percent from the field. Tonight’s horrid shooting night comes just three nights after they tallied a season-low 59 in a win over Michigan.
“We really just need to take our time more,” Bentley said. “Really use our offensive sets and get out in transition.”
The Lady Lions now travel to Columbus for their third game in seven days when they take on the Buckeyes Sunday afternoon at Value City Arena. Ohio State is 10-1 at home and are led by Player of the Year candidate Taylor Hill.
Matt Lawrence is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and economics. To contact him, e-mail Mdl5249@psu.edu.
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