Lady Lions Beat Washington State in Season Opener
The Penn State Lady Lions (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) kicked off the 2011-2012 regular season with a 72-60 win over the Washington State Cougars (0-1, 0-0 Pac 12) in the first game of the Lady Lion Classic.
The Lady Lions, who start out the season ranked 12th in the Associated Press preseason poll, begin their season with high expectations. But the Cougars’ full court press defense forced the Lady Lions into committing 17 first half turnovers and gave the Lions all they could handle throughout the night.
“Those were very uncharacteristic turnovers that we had,” said Penn State guard Alex Bentley. “I think it’s just first game jitters. It’s the first game we were really pumped and really excited to get out on the floor. We definitely turned it around in the 2nd half.”
Washington State’s tough play came as no surprise to Lady Lions Coach Coquese Washington.
“They are very well coached team,” said Washington. “I knew they would play well together. I expected it be a tough game and it turned out that way.”
Despite all the first half turnovers, the Lady Lions played well on offense. Sophomore guard Maggie Lucas and junior guard Alex Bentley each scored 22 points to lead Penn State.
Lucas, who was 2011 Big Ten Freshman of the year, went 4-10 from the field and was 3-7 from beyond the arc. She also made Washington State pay at the free throw line. Lucas went 11-13 from the line and seemed to relish and drive more to the basket Friday.
“I was getting to free throw line often,” said Lucas. “If they’re going to run at me that hard then I’m going to drive.”
Alex Bentley, who was selected as the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year, finished the night 7-13 from the field, 2-2 from three point range, and 6-6 from the line.
“We stayed aggressive,” said Bentley. “Co [Coach Washington] kept telling us to drive, get in the lane because their defense was pushing out on us denying the wing. The middle was wide open and that is where we picked up all the fouls and got to free throw line.”
The Lady Lions held the Cougars scoreless for nearly seven minutes down the stretch at the end of the game. Penn State’s defense at the end of the game and a 13-0 run proved to be big factors in the win.
“I think down the stretch, we were not going to let them score,” said sophomore forward Talia East. “The guards did a great job at containing. Our main focus was defense.”
East, who had a career high 6 points and 8 rebounds Friday, said her mindset was more focused on rebounds.
“If I rebound, the points will come,” East said.
Sophomore swingman Sage Romberg led all Cougars tonight with 12 points and 7 rebounds. Despite having a total 29 points from their bench tonight, the Cougars’ failure to generate points in last seven minutes of the contest ultimately decided their fate.
“We did not execute as well as we should have down the stretch,” said Washington State head coach June Daugherty. “We got three really good looks. We couldn’t knock them down. And unfortunately we turned the ball over a little too late in basketball game.”
Daugherty was not discouraged by the loss, respecting the talent and preparedness of the Lady Lions.
“For our first game out of the shoot against a very well coached team, I am very encouraged,” she said.
Lady Lions senior guard Zhaque Gray chipped in 7 points and 4 rebounds, along with junior forward Mia Nickson, who scored 6 points and pulled down 7 boards off the glass.
With the win Friday, the Lady Lions improve to 36-12 all-time in season openers, including wins to begin the last five seasons. Penn State has never lost a season-opener under Coquese Washington. Additionally, the Lady Lions are now 40-8 all-time in home openers including a 12-3 mark in the BJC.
The Lady Lions advanced to the championship game of the Lady Lion Classic and a matchup against Middle Tennessee State with the win.
Tom Zulewski is a junior majoring in print journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.