Lady Lions Win Second Straight, Edge Northwestern 76-75
After a tough slog through the beginning of the conference schedule featuring seven straight losses, the Lady Lions have finally found their groove, earning a second-straight victory over a Big Ten opponent in Sunday’s 76-75 win over Northwestern (14-5, 4-4 B1G) in the Bryce Jordan Center.
It was a total team effort from start to finish, as five Lady Lions scored in double figures for the second-straight game, marking the first time Coquese Washington’s squad has accomplished that feat since 2011.
How It Happened
Northwestern built an early lead on a pair of three-pointers by Ashley Deary and Maggie Lyon, and stretched their lead to seven points when Lyon sank her second three-point field goal of the game to make it 15-8 Wildcats. Despite failing to generate consistent offense in most games this season, Penn State put together a 14-3 run to take the lead at 22-18.
Following the run, Spann knocked down a transition three-pointer with 6:45 to play in the opening half to balloon the lead to eight points, 31-23. The Wildcats would not lay down, engineering an 11-2 run to take back the lead, 34-33. Not to be outdone, the Lady Lions closed the half by scoring eight of the last 10 points to take a five-point lead into halftime, 41-36.
Northwestern scored the first two buckets of the second half to cut the lead to one, 41-40, but Penn State swelled the lead back to seven points with three straight baskets. Sierra Moore stretched the lead back to eight converted a layup to make it 58-50, with 12:27 to play, but Northwestern would continue to scratch and claw their way back.
During a span of three minutes, the Wildcats outscored the Lady Lions 13-4 to take a 63-62 lead on a Karly Roser layup with 9:01 to play. Three ties and three lead changes highlighted a back-and-forth contest to the bitter end. With the final tie happening with 32 seconds left, the Wildcats pressured the inbounds pass and forced a Penn State turnover, leading to a Christen Inman layup to knot the game at 75-75.
Seeking a bucket to recapture the lead, Candice Agee was fouled with 10 seconds left. Facing a pivotal moment, the junior made one-of-two free throws, missing the second. Northwestern raced down the court to set up a Lydia Rohde desperation shot that bounced off the back iron and into Alex Harris’ hands to seal the win for Penn State as time expired.
Player of the Game
Kaliyah Mitchell. The sophomore dominated the boards, pulling down a career-high 15 rebounds to go along with 10 points, giving the Stone Mountain, Georgia native her second-straight double-double.
Quote of the Game
“Earlier in the season we weren’t able to close these games out,” head coach Coquese Washington said after the game. “We didn’t have the necessary confidence, the necessary chemistry and cohesiveness to do it. Now I think we’re at a point in the season where we kind of know what we need to do to close teams out, whether it’s getting a stop or executing on offense.”
Following a rough start to the season that saw Penn State drop fifteen of its first eighteen games, including seven straight to open up Big Ten play, the Lions have pieced together back-to-back wins, by a combined five points.
“We’ve come a long way,” said sophomore guard Sierra Moore, who added a game-high 18 points. “At the beginning of the season, we had a lot of really close games and we were just short every time. Now, you can tell that we have grown so much and are playing basketball like we knew we could all along.”
- The five double-digit scorers: Candice Agee (10), Sierra Moore (18), Kaliyah Mitchell (10), Alex Harris (11), and Peyton Whitted (11).
- Sophomore Alex Harris came off of the bench to score 11 points and grab 10 rebounds for her first career double-double.
- The Lady Lions’ bench contributed 31 points, their most since scoring 32 points last season vs. Alcorn State on Dec. 22, 2013.
- After leading the team in scoring for much of the season, freshman Lindsey Spann added nine points off of the bench. “We’ve tried a lot of different lineups this year and this one seems to be working with Lindsay [Spann] coming off the bench,” coach Washington explained. “It gives us more punch off the bench and it just seems to be working for this team right now so we’re going to go with it.”
- Sierra Moore moved past the 300 career point plateau with 18 points. The Duke transfer now has 304 career points, with 241 coming in a Lady Lion uniform.
After a pair of crucial home victories, the Lady Lions (5-15, 2-7 B1G) hit the road for a pair of games next week at Minnesota on Wednesday, Jan. 28 and Rutgers Sunday, Feb. 1.
Photo: Craig Houtz