Bentley Leads Lady Lions to Tournament Win
Late in the game with Dayton making a furious comeback that brought them within two points three times, all in attendance at the Bryce Jordan Center knew who was going to take the big shot for Penn State–Alex Bentley.
“She’s gonna take the big shot,” Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. “She made some for us today.”
Bentley scored 25 points to lead the Penn State women’s basketball team past Dayton on Saturday. The 75-66 victory puts the Lady Lions into the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004. Mia Nickson contributed 14 points and 10 rebounds in a game that was not nearly as comfortable as the score would seem to indicate.
In fact, at the beginning of the game, it looked like Dayton would run away with the win. Patrice Lalor hit a jumper to give Dayton a 16-8 lead after just over five minutes of game time. However, Penn State immediately switched to a full-court pressure defense that rattled Dayton, allowing the Lady Lions to go on a 10-0 run to take the lead.
After a long stretch of sloppy play, Penn State finally got some rhythm going offensively and went into the break with a 42-30 advantage. Bentley had 14 points in the half, but it was Penn State’s bench that made the biggest impact.
“I thought our bench was fantastic and probably the difference in the game,” Washington said. “I thought they were a tremendous plus for us today.”
Penn State could not find an answer for Lalor or Kristin Daugherty in the second half. Both players scored 18 points and stepped up their play after Dayton’s leading scorer, Justine Raterman, went down with a knee injury in the first half. Lalor started a 7-0 Dayton run to close the gap to 58-56 with 6:20 left in the game.
Bentley made her first big shot immediately after to push the lead back out to four points. Dayton closed the gap to two points twice more, but it was Bentley who made the shot each time for the Lady Lions to hold the Flyers at bay. Maggie Lucas, who was held to 12 points on just 2-6 shooting, made six free throws down the stretch to complete the win.
“She is like an NBA player,” Dayton coach Jim Jabir said. “We’ll have nightmares about Bentley for a long time.”
Bentley and the rest of the Lady Lions will hope to be nightmares for their next opponent, third-seed DePaul, in the second round on Monday at the BJC. DePaul won their first round game 56-43 over Navy.