Lady Lions Finish Regular Season with Win in Pink Zone Game
The Penn State Lady Lions (23-5, 13-3 Big Ten) finished out the regular season on Sunday with a 74-51 win over the Minnesota Gophers (14-16, 6-10 Big Ten) at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Sunday’s game was the Sixth Annual WBCA Pink Zone game. The Lady Lions honored survivors of breast cancer and also raised money for breast cancer causes. Included in the Pink Zone game events was a performance by four time Grammy winner Regina Belle and an appearance by Penn State’s head football coach, Bill O’Brien.
The game drew a crowd of just over 13,000, which made for the fourth largest crowd in Lady Lions history. The Lady Lions were able to feed off the crowd during the game, which became a major advantage for them.
"It's a significant home court advantage, that's for sure," said Lady Lions head coach Coquese Washington. "I think it becomes one of the best venues in the country to play in."
It was also senior day, and the Lady Lions honored lone senior player, guard Zhaque Gray. Gray had a phenomenal day for Penn State, scoring 18 total points, making her the 47th player in Lady Lions history to score 800 career points.
"[Gray] has just meant so much to the team," said sophomore guard Maggie Lucas, who finished with 24 points to lead the Lady Lions. "She plays with so much heart, and we just try and follow that example. She sets that example every time she steps on the court."
With 6:59 left in the game, Gray made her most impressive play of the day. Backed into a corner, Gray put up a three pointer that sank into the basket just as the shot clock expired and the buzzer sounded. The crowd went wild with excitement; the shot put the Lady Lions up 31 points over the Gophers.
“Words really can’t express how thrilled I am for her to be able to have this experience,” said Washington. “You go to college, you pick a school, you have high hopes and you have high expectations, but it’s almost like putting your hand in a candy jar. You’re not sure what’s going to come out on the other end. She had a lot of faith that we could have this kind of season, that she could have this kind of collegiate experience.”
Lucas was the Lady Lions’ top performer of the game. She added eight assists and two steals along with her 24 point performance. Lucas and the rest of the Penn State offense were able to play off Minnesota’s struggling defense and not only make shots, but play together as a cohesive offense.
Defensively, the Lady Lions played an aggressive game. They played in man to man coverage, and made it hard for the Gophers to get any type of offensive rhythm going.
"I feel like we're playing better as a team," said junior center Nikki Greene. "There's no individual plays. There's not one player just contributing. It's everybody and it's a team effort."
With the win, the Lady Lions were able to claim the Big Ten women’s basketball title outright, a title that they shared with Ohio State just a few days ago.
"They set the goals," said Washington. "Then it's our job as coaches to help them achieve the goal. When you see the elation on their faces, and you see the joy in what they accomplished, that's what we coach for. We don't coach for anything else."
The next step for Penn State is the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. The Lady Lions enter as the top seed in the Big Ten after winning the regular season championship. They will face Minnesota on March 2.
Breanna Jacobs is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact her, e-mail: email@example.com.