Lady Lions Fall to Minnesota, 89-81
For just the fourth time this season, the Lady Lions (23-4, 13-2) were handed a loss, this time by the Golden Gophers (17-12, 9-6) of Minnesota, 89-81. Set in Minneapolis Thursday night, and coming off of a huge conference title-clinching win against Michigan, Penn State couldn’t get back on top after trailing by as many as 13 points in the second half.
On paper, the Lady Lions beat out the Gophers in almost every single statistic, including rebounding, blocks, and steals. In addition, Penn State had just 13 turnovers while Minnesota had 23. The difference was shooting, which comes as a surprise for the Lady Lions who are usually efficient shooters.
The Golden Gophers were led by Micaella Riche and Rachel Banham who scored 24 and 23 points, respectively, while Penn State looked to junior Maggie Lucas, who, although went 2-for-11 from behind the 3, had 23 points. Senior Alex Bentley contributed with 19 points and 4 steals.
The Gophers started off on a 5-0 run to begin the game. Bentley and redshirt junior Dara Taylor kept Penn State alive throughout the first half with important jumpers that kept the score close. Missed shots, though, plagued the Lady Lions as they trailed by seven after ten minutes of play. Their rhythm went back and forth, but ended the half down just one point at 37-36 after a jumper from Lucas. At the half, the Lady Lions led in points made off of turnovers (15 compared to Minnesota’s 4) as well as fast break points (8-2), and even points in the paint (14-10) despite being down.
Things were looking up to kick off the second half, as Penn State took a quick lead after a Lucas 3-pointer. Just a few minutes later, a Lucas jumper gave Penn State their last lead of the game with 18:20 left. Fouls were a big problem for the Lady Lions in the second half and led to a 13-point deficit with 8:03 left in the game.
Penn State fought hard, coming within six points of Minnesota, but a tough break came when Bentley fouled out with 2:24 left. Each shot from the Lady Lions was matched by the Gophers and they could not grab onto the momentum they needed.
The Lady Lions take on #20 Nebraska (22-6, 12-3) on Sunday at 6 p.m. in Lincoln. A win at Nebraska would give them the outright Big Ten Conference title before they head to the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago next week.