Lady Lions Breeze Past Cal Poly
Despite a scoring drought early in the first half, the third-seeded Lady Lions breezed through their first round game of the NCAA tournament, beating No. 14 seed Cal Poly 85-55 in Baton Rouge yesterday.
Four players for Penn State ended up scoring in double figures, and senior Mia Nickson posted a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
After five minutes of play, the teams were tied at 4. The lead went back and forth for a bulk of the first half, until junior Maggie Lucas — who recorded 19 points — and junior Ariel Edwards (9 points) went for a pair of lay-ups and pushed the Lady Lions up past the Mustangs. Nickson and senior Nikki Greene contributed to the offensive run, and with 49 seconds left, Penn State had a solid 35-28 lead. This lead wasn’t good enough, though, for Lucas.
With nine seconds left in the half, Lucas stalled until she broke around a pick set by senior Talia East and swished a 3-pointer at the buzzer, giving the Lady Lions a 10-point lead going into the locker room at halftime.
In post-game interviews, Lucas realized that the first half was full of jitters, but, “in the second half, we were playing our game again.”
They broke away early, and after a Lucas steal and break away lay-up, the Lady Lions were up 56-36 with just under 13 minutes left in the game.
The story of the game was Penn State’s post players, who out-rebounded Cal Poly 52-40 and had seven blocks to the Mustangs’ two.
“We battled. I thought we did a great job on the boards as a collective,” said Nickson.
East came off of the bench and showed her tenacity with 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 4 points. Head Coach Coquese Washington, in her post-game press conference, noted, “Talia was huge for us.”
With 26 seconds left, Cal Poly senior Kayla Griffin was put into the game despite a torn ACL she suffered last week against Pacific when the Mustangs clinched the Big West Conference title. Head Coach Faith Mimnaugh wanted her to be entered into the box score for her final game.
The Lady Lions pulled away for a 30-point victory for their 30th tournament win in history. On Tuesday night they will play sixth-seeded LSU after the Lady Tigers defeated No. 11 seed Green Bay 75-71.
This is a rematch of last year’s second round contest, also at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Louisiana, that saw the Lady Lions defeat the Lady Tigers 90-80 to advance to the Sweet 16.
The full tournament bracket can be found here.
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