Lady Lions Advance to Second Round
The Penn State Lady Lions (23-7) opened up the NCAA Tournament with a dramatic win over the Wichita State Shockers (26-7) at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Lions were sparked by a 17-0 run to start the second half, before ultimately holding off a scrappy and relentless Wichita State team.
“They play with a lot of poise, a lot of confidence,” head coach Coquese Washington said of the Shockers.
The Lions avoided being the first No. 3 seed to ever fall at the hands of a No. 14 seed, spoiling the Shockers’ potential Cinderella story. After a sloppy performance in the first half, Penn State used the aforementioned 17-0 run to swing the game back in their favor and gain a lead they would never give back.
The Lady Lions benefited from the ability to play in front of their home crowd.
“We feed off our crowd, it’s like having a sixth man out there,” senior guard Maggie Lucas said.
However, Washington noted that the crowd can only do so much, saying, “It’s great having the crowd, but it’s up to us to make plays to give them to cheer about.”
Despite getting out to an early 7-2 lead at the first media timeout, Penn State played poorly in the first half and headed into the locker room down 30-25. The Lady Lions went through tough stretches offensively, as they were unable to score for over eight minutes, allowing the Shockers to go on a 14-0 run and grab a lead they held until early in the second half.
The Lady Lions' star, Lucas, got off to a cold start, forcing deep shots and playing out of her game, but she found her spark late in the first half. The Big Ten’s all-time leader in three pointers knocked down back-to-back shots from behind-the-arc to cut the Shockers’ lead down to four. Lucas finished the first half with 12 points and added 10 more in the second half, to lead all scorers with 22. Lucas started just 1-for-6 from the field, but finished a stellar 8-for-18 from the floor.
The Shockers offense, led by Michaela Dapprich with 10 points, shot just 37 percent from the floor in the first half, but the Shockers were seven for eight from the foul line. Wichita State forced Penn State into nine turnovers and caused constant havoc, never letting Penn State get anything easy on the offensive end.
Dapprich continued her hot shooting in the 2nd half, but the rest of the Shockers stayed cold. Dapprich knocked down five of her 10 threes, finishing with 19 points overall, however, Wichita State shot just 29.6 percent in the 2nd half, finishing the game at 33.3 percent.
“I’m a post player, but I was looking to stretch the floor today,” Dapprich said.
Alex Harden joined Dapprich in double figures with 16, but the rest of the team failed to add much. Penn State took advantage of the rest of Wichita’s cold shooting, as they converted on 50 percent of their chances in the 2nd half.
Joining Lucas in double figures were Ariel Edwards (17) and Talia East (13) who recorded a double-double and was a constant game-changer. East pulled down 13 boards and blocked her 100th career shot as a Lady Lion. Led by East, Penn State’s size was used to their advantage as they out rebounded the Shockers by 17.
“I think it was definitely a factor on the boards. We were able to get some second opportunities and some big defensive rebounds,” Washington said.
The Lady Lions were able to change the pace of the game in the second half and frustrate a Shockers team that never gave up.
“It was a game of runs. We didn’t finish, they did,” Wichita State head coach Jody Adams said.
Wichita State made a run at the end of the game, but it was too late, as Penn State sealed the deal.
The Lady Lions will take on the winner of Dayton and Florida on Tuesday. Tune into ComRadio for coverage beginning at 7:00 p.m.
Jeff Jezewski is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Courtesy: (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)