Lady Lions Fall Short Late in Comeback Effort vs. Nebraska

Story posted January 14, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by Marley Paul

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State staged an impressive comeback on Wednesday after falling behind by as many as 20 points in the second quarter versus Nebraska, but tumbled to the finish line in the waning moments of the game, falling 83-78 to a red-hot Cornhusker team.

Teniya Page carried the Lady Lions (6-10, 1-4 Big Ten) in the final minutes of play. After Nebraska guard Natalie Romeo nailed her eighth 3-pointer of the game — breaking the school record, which she tied last season — extending the Cornhuskers’ (11-5, 2-3 B1G) lead to nine with less than three minutes to play, Page answered with a 3 of her own. Her next two buckets, a baseline-to-baseline transition layup and veteran pump fake to cash in three free throws, cut the deficit to 79-76 with :35 remaining.

"Teniya certainly came alive and made some big plays,” said Penn State coach Coquese Washington. "I thought that was a really intelligent play to get the three free throws and then to go to the line and make all three of them to make it a one possession game, that was pretty impressive for a freshman."

On the ensuing Nebraska possession, Peyton Whitted picked off an errant cross-court pass and had her eyes set on getting to the basket. The 6-foot-3 forward made it the paint but, while gathering, made contact with a Nebraska defender resulting in the junior tumbling down and the ball flying out of bounds in favor of the Cornhuskers.

"I thought there was a little bit of contact, you know tangled feet and the referee thought it was incidental contact,” said Washington, who had a perfect view of the play that took place right in front of the Penn State bench. "At that pointing the game, I’m not sure that incidental contact comes into play at that point, but that was the call.

Kyndal Clark, who went 0 for 7 from the floor, closed the game from the charity stripe, adding four free throws. She finished 8 for 8 at the free throw line as Nebraska shot 19 of 21 as a team with a plus-10 margin in attempts. Romeo finished with a career-high 32 points.

After opening the game with a 3-pointer, Page was quiet for much of the first half, adding just two more points as the Lady Lions watched Nebraska close the first quarter on a 25-3 run over the last seven minutes to take an early 29-11 lead. Penn State shot 4 of 18 in the first quarter, including a 1 for 9 start for leading scorers Brianna Banks and Lindsey Spann, plus six turnovers.

Jessica Shepard was the beneficiary of the porous Penn State shooting, as the 6-foot-4 freshman beat the Lady Lions up the floor to establish position on the block, where she terrorized the many defenders she faced.

"She’s deceivingly athletic and mobile, and quick up and down the floor,” Washington added of the Nebraska native. “She does a really good job finishing down low and she takes up a lot of space. And they paired her with some good outside shooting today so it’s kind of tough.”

Shepard, the lone freshman on the 50-player Naismith Watch List, finished with her second consecutive 29-point game, on 10 of 12 shooting while adding 10 rebounds for her seventh double-double.

As a team, Nebraska displayed the hustle that has eluded the Lady Lions often throughout the season, and the in turn the Penn State offense developed into a jump shot haven, opposed to the inside-out tactic the coach and players said they strive for in practice.

"We didn’t necessarily follow the game plan. We shot a lot of jumpers and I thought we could have gotten the ball inside a lot more. These are some of the things we did in the fourth quarter … We could have done those things and we should of to start the game,” Washington said.

"Once again, we dug ourselves a pretty big hole and I thought we did a tremendous job of fighting and coming back and making it a one-possession game, but obviously just wasn’t able to close it out. … You look at the box score and we outscore them in the second, third and fourth quarter. But when you spot them 18 points that’s tough to come back from so the tough start certainly contributed to the outcome of the game."

Marley Paul is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism. To contact him, email mdp5300@psu.edu or follow him on Twitter: @MarleyPaul22.