Lady Lions Beat UTEP 85-77, Advance to Round Two
It was not their best game of basketball this season, but the No. 4 Penn State Lady Lions will be content with a 85-77 victory over No. 13 UTEP in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. UTEP ended up being a tough test, but a strong second half by Penn State sealed the victory on Sunday night.
Penn State (25-6) was second best for much of the first half. UTEP (29-4) got plenty of clean looks on the offensive end, shooting 53.6 percent. The Lady Lions had trouble offensively for a good portion of the half as well. However, Zhaque Gray made a couple of 3-pointers to spur a Penn State run that led to a tied 39-39 halftime score.
Penn State’s struggles ended as the second half began. After going 3-of-10 in the first half, Maggie Lucas started to get hot from the field. She made three of her first four baskets in the second half to help the Lady Lions to a 53-45 lead at the 14:36 mark. That lead would get as large as 14–a deficit that UTEP could not recover from.
The Lady Lions improved drastically defensively in the second half, causing the Miners’ shooting percentage to drop to a measly 33 percent in the second. Gloria Brown led the way for UTEP, scoring 18 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Kayla Thornton scored 15 points and grabbed 12 boards.
Nikki Greene stepped up her game in the second half, eventually finishing with 12 points and nine rebounds. The Lady Lion center was also tough on the defensive end, blocking three shots and altering many others. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Greene’s night was her performance from the free throw line. Normally a 63.3 percent free throw shooter, Greene went 7-for-8 on the night.
The rest of the Lady Lions shot well from the free throw line too. As a whole, the team shot 80.6 percent from the line, getting 25 points from free throws. After a tough first half, Lucas finished as the game’s leading scorer with 23 points. Alex Bentley had 21 to go along with five assists and three steals. Ariel Edwards provided a big boost coming off the bench, playing 18 minutes and scoring seven points.
The Lady Lions advance to the NCAA Tournament second round where they will play No. 5 LSU who defeated San Diego State 64-56. The game will take place on Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. LSU is hosting the first two rounds and they might even be expected to beat Penn State on Tuesday.