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Lady Lions Defeat Minnesota 69-60 For First Conference Win

Penn State women’s basketball (4-5, 1-4 Big Ten) snapped a five-game losing streak with a 69-60 win against Minnesota (2-6, 1-5 Big Ten) Sunday night.

The victory marks the Lady Lions’ first in-conference win and road victory of the season. It’s their first triumph in Big Ten play since January 9, 2020.

Johnasia Cash powered Penn State’s offense with 14 points and 12 rebounds to secure a double-double. Kelly Jekot added 14 points and eight rebounds of her own.

How It Happened

Minnesota scored the first points of the contest following a minute and a half of sloppy Big Ten basketball plagued by several turnovers.

About 20 seconds later, sophomore Shay Hagans converted on a fast-break layup to put the first points on the board for the Nittany Lions. Cash then added an offensive spark over the next few possessions, going a perfect 2-for-2 from field goal range in under than a minute of play.

Head coach Carolyn Kieger’s squad took its first lead of the ballgame at the 4:59 mark thanks to a layup by Jekot. Cash drew an offensive foul on the next possession to give Penn State even more momentum heading into the first media timeout.

Overall, Penn State shot a respectable 50% from field goal range in the first quarter compared to Minnesota’s 31%. However, it doubled the Gophers in turnovers to keep them close throughout the game.

After more than eight lead changes, Niya Beverly hit a deep three-ball as the clock expired to help the Lady Lions gain a one-point advantage following the first 10 minutes of play.

In the second quarter, Maddie Burke made an immediate impact by sinking back-to-back triples. Cash added a pair of free-throws to expand the Penn State lead to seven points at the 7:40 mark.

However, that lead quickly evaporated after Minnesota went on an impressive 13-1 run in the span of three minutes and 40 seconds. During this stretch, Penn State went 0-for-7 from field goal range, while the Gophers went 4-for-6.

Tova Sabel hit a three-ball with 2:46 remaining in the quarter to tie the game at 31. Less than a minute later, Hagans made a crafty move in the paint to help Penn State regain a one-point lead. The Gophers responded immediately by drawing a foul and getting to the free-throw line to close out the half ahead of the Nittany Lions, 34-33.

Jekot opened scoring in the second half with a layup and Makenna Marisa nailed a three-pointer on the next possession to give Penn State a 38-34 lead early in the third quarter. By the 3:51 mark, the Lady Lions managed to expand this lead to 10, but Minnesota continued to fight back and cut the deficit to five a little over a minute later.

Anna Camden responded with her first triple of the game, increasing the lead back to eight. A few possessions later, Beverly heaved up a three-pointer as the clock expired for her second buzzer-beater score of the day, helping the Lady Lions finish the third quarter with a 54-44 lead.

Minnesota started the final quarter with some sloppy defense, picking up three fouls in the first 20 seconds. However, Penn State didn’t capitalize on this until Niya Beverly knocked down a free-throw at the 7:26 mark.

The Gophers crept back to within six points of the Lady Lions, but Cash answered back by knocking down a pair of free-throws and a layup. Jekot chipped in a three-pointer to expand the lead to 11 and give Penn State some breathing room with fewer than five minutes to play.

Minnesota couldn’t get anything going in the fourth quarter, allowing Penn State to ultimately cruise to a 69-60 victory.

Takeaways

  • Johnasia Cash is a force to be reckoned with in the paint. Her 14 points and 12 rebounds propelled the Lady Lions when they needed it the most. Cash was also solid from the free-throw line, knocking down 6-of-8 free-throws — an area where Penn State has certainly struggled this season.
  • Buzzer-beater Beverly is clutch. Six of her seven points came as the clock expired in buzzer-beater fashion, proving that she can definitely be trusted with the ball in her hands in crucial moments of the ballgame. Beverly makes heaving up a three-ball look easy.
  • Turnovers were brutal for Kieger’s squad against Minnesota. The Nittany Lions had a total of 19 in the game, which helped the Gophers hang around far longer than they probably should have. The Lady Lions definitely need to clean up their act on both ends of the floor if they want to compete with some of their other Big Ten rivals throughout the remainder of the season.

What’s Next?

The Lady Lions will return home on Sunday, January 17, for a matchup against No. 22 Northwestern.

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About the Author

Rory Pelella

Rory is a junior from Binghamton, New York majoring in Spanish and journalism. She has been bleeding blue and white ever since her older siblings decided to create a family dynasty in Happy Valley. She loves anything Penn State (especially Yallah), the Yankees, Knicks, Giants, and a good old fashioned New York slice. Feel free to email her at [email protected] or follow her on twitter @rorypelella.

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