Lady Lions and Cal-Poly Dance in Opening Round
Penn State takes to the court for the first time in over two weeks, knowing now that every game could very well be the final one of the season as they begin NCAA Tournament play.
The third-seeded Lady Lions (25-5, 14-2 Big Ten) will look to extend their season today when they take on the No. 14 seed Cal Poly Mustangs (21-10, 13-5 Big West) in Baton Rogue at 5:15 p.m.
For Coquese Washington’s squad, the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Louisiana is a familiar site with a potential familiar second round opponent should the Lady Lions prevail today. Last season, they defeated UTEP and LSU in Baton Rogue to advance to the Sweet 16. Penn State and the Lady Tigers could once again meet in the second round if No. 6 seed LSU (20-11, 10-6 SEC) can avoid an upset versus No. 11 seed Green Bay (29-2, 16-0 Horizon League).
Cal Poly enters the tournament on a hot streak, champions of the Big West conference tournament and winners of eight of their past nine games overall with the only blemish being a loss to Long Beach State two weeks ago.
The Mustangs are led by junior center Molly Schlemer, who averages 13 points and 7 rebounds a game. Sophomore guard Ariana Elegado is also a solid contributor, scoring 12.3 points per game and dishing out 3.7 assists.
For the Lady Lions, it is the final tournament run for Alex Bentley. The senior guard will team up with Big Ten Player of the Year Maggie Lucas as Penn State looks to recover from a surprise loss to Michigan State in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament and go on a run, eager to prove they are better than the three seed that the selection committee assigned them after spending the entire season near the top of the polls.
To prevent a shocking upset loss, the Lady Lions will need more balanced scoring. When they came up short against the Spartans, Lucas scored 23 of their 46 points but needed 22 shots to do it as they severely struggled from the field, shooting 15-67 overall.
The Lady Lions have not lost two games in a row all season, and — barring something completely unforseen — there’s not much evidence to suggest that begins today.
The game can be seen on ESPN2, and the full women’s bracket can be viewed here.