Lady Lions’ Big Ten dominance is over, finish the 3-15 in conference play
After a three-year reign atop the Big Ten, the Penn State Lady Lions find themselves in last place as they finish the 2014-2015 campaign with a 62-56 loss Sunday afternoon against Wisconsin at the Bryce Jordan Center.
It was senior day for forward Tori Waldner from Milton, Ga., a three-time Big Ten champion as well as two-time academic All-Big Ten student and Pennsylvania native, Molly Dincher.
Waldner gave a strong effort in her final start at home for Penn State (6-23, 3-15 B1G) finishing with 12 points in 27 minutes of play, but her mind is not on the conclusion of her collegiate career in University Park.
“What am I going to miss most? I’m not sure because we still have a tournament so I’m looking forward to that,” Waldner said.
“Nothing’s going to hit me about what I’m going to miss until this season’s done and it really hasn’t. We still have to play. We still have to do well and we’re not ending with this game.”
Penn State coach Coquese Washington spoke candidly on the impact of Waldner to the Lady Lions.
“She’s competed on the highest level; she’s been a student of the highest caliber and she’s been a leader in this community,” Washington said. “Her lessons will be passed down so we’ll lose her body, but we won’t lose her spirit; we won’t lose her leadership”
Wisconsin (9-19, 5-13 B1G) finished the first half shooting 55.6 percent and 50 percent from three-point range thanks to Nicole Bauman, who shot 4-4 en route to 14 first half points.
Bauman finished with 22 points, nailing 6-9 three pointers and collecting two rebounds and three assists.
Sierra Moore carried the Lady Lions finishing with a double-double 17 points, 14 rebounds, and 4 assists.
“She’s an incredible athlete so when she gets in there and puts her mind to it she can be a factor,” coach Washington said.
Sophomore forward, Jenny DeGraaf, played extended minutes, spreading the floor with her shooting prowess as she added 9 points while grabbing 7 rebounds in 25 minutes.
As has been the story all season, it was a tale of two halves for the Lady Lions. After allowing the Badgers to find a flow in the first half, they held Wisconsin to 28 percent shooting in the second half.
Another bright spot for the Lady Lions was their dominance in the paint, finishing with 36 points in the paint and a plus-17 rebounding advantage.
However, once again, it was too little too late. After their lone three-point make from Jenny DeGraaf capping an 11-2 run to start the second half and tying the game at 45 moments later, a 5-0 run by Nicole Bauman gave the Badgers enough room to seal the victory.
“We’re not that experienced on getting back in the game and being able to finish the game strong,” said Moore.
“I think the first half was really a detriment to us today, but I was just happy to see us finish off strong and show that we can play like that and we can do it in the Big Ten Tournament.”
Turnovers plagued the Lady Lions as they committed 16, leading to 18 points for the Badgers.
Kaliyah Mitchell chipped in 8 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists before fouling out in the final minutes.
Freshman guard, Lindsey Spann, was relegated to the bench for much of the game, playing just 12 minutes, failing to register a field goal attempt. After climbing to No. 8 all-time in the school’s freshman single-season scoring list, she finished with zero points.
Penn State also celebrated its ninth annual PinkZone event, honoring breast cancer survivors around Pennsylvania. Over 700 survivors took the court at halftime in celebration of being cancer-free.
“The Pinkzone game is when sports and community collide,” Washington said. “One of the hallmarks of any sport or event is the triumph over adversity. That’s why people file in to watch any sporting event is can they do it? Can that team do it? Can that individual do it? Can they make it happen? And when you bring breast cancer survivors and basketball together the answer is yes.”
The Lady Lions will travel to Illinois with an upset on their mind as they enter the Big Ten Tournament. They will play the Indiana Hoosiers in the first round of the tournament.
Marley Paul is a junior majoring in digital and print journalism. To contact him, email mdp5300.psu.edu or follow him on Twitter at @psu_mpaul.