Lady Lions Avoid Upset Against Minnesota
The Penn State women’s basketball team avoided an early exit from the Big Ten Tournament with a come-from-behind victory over Minnesota, 78-74. All five starters scored in double figures for the Lady Lions, who advance to the semifinals for the second year in a row.
The No. 8 seed Golden Gophers (15-17) rode the momentum from a first round victory to take an early lead. They consistently turned No. 1 seed Penn State’s (24-5) misses into baskets at the other end. The Lady Lions struggled to find a solution to stop Minnesota’s Rachel Banham. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year finished with 25 points and nine rebounds after befuddling the Penn State defense in the first half.
If not for Zhaque Gray, the Lady Lions could have faced an insurmountable lead. While the rest of her team was shooting poorly, Gray made several 3-pointers to keep the Lions in contention. Eventually, Maggie Lucas started to make baskets, helping Penn State reduce the deficit from 13 points to seven at the break.
The second half could not have been more different than the first for Penn State. The Lady Lions opened the half on a 16-2 run to take their first lead since the second minute of the game. They played with more intensity on the defensive end in the second half, leading to some easy scores. Penn State built the lead out to 13 points, but Minnesota never gave up. The Golden Gophers cut the deficit to two points with 26 seconds left in the game, and again with four seconds left. However, they could not regain the lead, and Penn State won 78-74.
Lucas led the Lady Lions with 24 points, and Gray added 19. If not for their combined 7-for-13 effort from the 3-point line, Penn State would have lost. As a team, Penn State shot only 36.2 percent. Nikki Greene turned in a much better second half than first, ending with 11 points and eight boards. Alex Bentley had a poor shooting night, going 5-for-21 and 12 points, but her seven steals were crucial on the defensive side of the ball.
With the victory, Penn State advances to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. There, they will face No. 4 Purdue. The game will be on Saturday, 25 minutes after the first game between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 6 Nebraska concludes. The Lady Lions and Boilermakers met once this season at Purdue, with Penn State coming out 74-63 victors.