Lady Lions Win Third Straight Game, Defeat Nebraska 85-74
Penn State women’s basketball (7-7, 4-6 Big Ten) picked up its third straight win in a nail-biter against Nebraska (9-6, 7-5 Big Ten) Thursday night at the Bryce Jordan Center. This victory marks the first time the Lady Lions have beaten the Cornhuskers since 2017.
Johnasia Cash powered the Penn State offense in the win, racking up 27 points and 19 rebounds and securing her sixth double-double in the last seven games.
Despite turning the ball over on the first possession of the game, Penn State came out ready to play Thursday night. Anna Camden opened the scoring for the Lady Lions with a layup in the paint about two minutes into the contest, thanks to a pretty assist from fellow sophomore Makenna Marisa.
Less than a minute later, Camden found the basket again and converted a three-point play. Niya Beverly added a three-pointer a few possessions later to give Penn State an early 8-2 advantage.
Nebraska answered back with a few buckets of its own, and eventually evened the score at eight by the 3:54 mark. However, a half-court pass from Cash to Hagans paved the way for an easy fast-break layup and ignited a 10-4 Penn State run to close out the quarter up 20-12.
Things started to fall a part for the Lady Lions in the second, as the Cornhuskers made two three-pointers in the span of 28 seconds.
Marisa delivered a much-needed response with a three-pointer of her own, and Maddie Burke converted a layup on the following possession to give the Lady Lions some breathing room and extend the lead to 27-19.
Nebraska continued to chip away at that lead and got to within four points of the Lady Lions with roughly five minutes to go in the half. However, a three-pointer by Nan Garcia provided another huge lift for Penn State and expanded the lead back to seven points.
A few possessions later, Nebraska cut the deficit to two, but the Lady Lions once again answered with a three-ball from Burke. Sabel got in on the offensive action by notching a three-pointer of her own to give Penn State a 42-35 lead. The game tightened at the end of the half, but head coach Carolyn Kieger’s squad managed to maintain a 44-40 advantage when the clock expired.
In the third quarter, Cash immediately got things going for the Lady Lions with a crafty reverse layup. Meanwhile, the Penn State defense held the Cornhuskers scoreless for the first two minutes and 20 seconds, allowing the Nittany Lions to quickly gain an eight point advantage.
After Marisa sank a three-ball to extend the lead to 51-42, Nebraska proceeded to go on a 12-0 run and retake the lead for the first time since the 8:17 mark in the opening quarter.
Burke evened the score at 54 by sinking a three-pointer several possessions later. She made another three around the one-minute mark to regain the lead for Penn State, and then knocked down a pair of free-throws to give her team a bit of breathing room. After an overall rocky third quarter, the Lady Lions just barely came out on top, leading 59-58 ahead of the final ten minutes of play.
Nebraska opened the fourth quarter by going on a 5-0 offensive run, forcing Kieger to take a timeout at the 7:47 mark. Cash then heaved up a three-pointer as the shot-clock expired to give Penn State some momentum, and knocked down a pair of free-throws on the following possession to help the Lady Lions retake a 64-63 lead.
After some back-and-forth action by both teams, Nebraska broke the 68-68 tie at the 3:39 mark with a three-pointer, forcing Penn State to use yet another timeout. Cash immediately responded with back-to-back layups to give Penn State a one-point lead.
Marisa later secured a clutch offensive rebound and was fouled on the way down, sending her to the free-throw line with a little over two minutes remaining in the ballgame. She knocked down both free-throws to extend the lead to three. On Penn State’s next offensive possession, Cash drained a jumper to give the Lady Lions a 76-71 advantage.
In the remaining minute and a half, Penn State eased out the victory from the free throw line, cruising to a 85-74 win.
- Marisa and Burke make up quite the backcourt for Penn State women’s basketball. These two are arguably the best players on the team, and without a doubt the most consistent. They posted 17 and 13 points respectively, seven rebounds a piece, and combined to make 9-of-10 free throws Thursday night. It’s clear that Kieger can trust both of these players to have the ball in their hands in crucial moments of the ballgame. While they may not lead the team in scoring every night, they do all of the little things right and have perfected the most basic fundamentals of basketball that build the best teams.
- Penn State has certainly improved from the free throw line. As a team, the Lady Lions went 26-for-32 as far as free throws go, shooting an impressive 81% compared to Nebraska’s 33%. In a close game like this one that came right down to the final minutes, free throws are what win or lose ballgames.
- For the most part, the same five players were in the game down the stretch for Penn State: Beverly, Cash, Hagans, Marisa, and Burke. This unit helped the Lady Lions close out the game, something the team has not been able to do very well this season. All five players worked really well together and demonstrated that they have chemistry. This is something Kieger will likely keep in mind going forward.
The Lady Lions return to the Bryce Jordan Center Sunday, February 7 for a matchup against Wisconsin. Tipoff is slated for 2 p.m.
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