Lady Lions Trounce Tar Heels with Three Point Shooting
Penn State’s guards led the way as the 16th-ranked Lady Lions (6-1, 0-0 Big Ten) beat the 14th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels (5-1, 0-0 ACC) 103-84 Wednesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.
With arguably their best frontcourt offensive threat redshirt junior forward Mia Nickson, still on the bench due to injury, Penn State had to rely yet again on the stellar play of their backcourt. For the first time since the 1992-1993 season, the Lady Lions scored over 100 points in consecutive games.
Despite playing with the same guards that ended last season leading the nation in shooting the three, the Lady Lions were nowhere near the top in that statistic coming into Wednesday’s game. But Penn State got off to a quick start shooting from the perimeter as sophomore guard Maggie Lucas and senior guard Zhaque Gray both hit three-pointers within the first minute of the contest.
The Lady Lions would look even better from downtown in the second half, where they went 6-for-7 from deep. When the final buzzer sounded, Penn State had hit a school-record 14 three-pointers. Six of those 14 three-pointers came from Gray, who recorded 25 points and a career-high six assists on the night.
“[Gray] just tries to do the things that she is really good at and looks for opportunities to do that,” Penn State head coach Coquese Washington said. “When she has them, she takes them and when she doesn't, she doesn't force anything.”
Fellow Lady Lion sharpshooter Lucas hit five three-pointers of her own en route to 21 points in the game. Lucas’ numbers were especially impressive because she missed almost the entire second half after picking up her fourth foul in the first minute.
Junior guard Alex Bentley added 15 points of her own along with a career-high 15 assists for the first double-double of her Penn State tenure. Her performance garnered praise from her opponents.
“I've known her for a long time, she's an outstanding player,” North Carolina head coach Sylvania Hatchell said. “She finds open people. She had a lot of assists and she just makes everybody on the floor better.”
Despite the losing effort, there were bright spots for the Tar Heels. Freshman guard Brittany Rountree scored 27 points to lead North Carolina and was a big reason why they stayed in the game until late in the second half. Senior forward Laura Broomfield added 21 points and 17 rebounds while junior swingman Krista Gross contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds.
With Penn State’s two best available frontcourt players — junior forward Nikki Greene and sophomore forward Talia East — getting in foul trouble early in the first half, junior forward Marissa Wolfe and freshman forward Tori Waldner stepped up to have one of their best games this season so far.
Waldner recorded a career-high six points and two blocks in the contest. Wolfe recorded seven points against the Tar Heels, including only her fourth three-pointer of her career with just over nine minutes left in the second half to bring the Lady Lions to a 79-66 lead.
“I just go out and work hard; I work hard every play,” Wolfe said. “I may not play very many minutes in a stretch, but I go as hard as I can every time.”
Penn State travels to Lubbock, Texas for a Saturday Big 12/Big Ten Challenge matchup with 19th-ranked Texas Tech.
Matt Trabold is a junior majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email: email@example.com.