Lady Lions Use Strong Defensive Play to Beat Wisconsin
The 18th-ranked Penn State Lady Lions (19-5, 9-3 Big Ten) extend their winning streak to three games Thursday night at the Bryce Jordan Center as they defeated the Wisconsin Badgers (8-16, 4-8 Big Ten) 69-54 in Big Ten conference play.
The Lady Lions jumped out to an early 8-0 lead minutes into the contest as sophomore guard Maggie Lucas spearheaded the offense by going 3-3 from the field early on. Lucas, who finished the game with 16 points, had 10 points in the first 8 minutes of the ballgame, after scoring just 10 total points last Sunday against Minnesota.
Penn State quickly established a commanding 21-8 lead early on by defending the Badgers with air tight defense and forcing Wisconsin into taking bad shots. The Badgers shot a dismal 32 percent from the field in the first half while missing all seven of their three point attempts, normally the strength of their offense.
“Coach [Coquese Washington] prepared us for their three point game,” said junior guard Alex Bentley. “We just got out on the shooters and made them put the ball on the floor.”
Despite being down by as many as 18 points in the first half, Wisconsin came out ready to play in the second half. At the 11:54 mark of the half, junior guard Taylor Wurtz hit the Badgers only three pointer of the night, which cut the Penn State lead down to 8 points. Wurtz, who coming into Thursday night’s contest had scored three straight games of 20 or more points, was held in check for most of the night and finished the game with 11 points.
Alex Bentley’s forced turnover and subsequent fast break layup at the 10:01 mark ended the Badgers 11-2 run putting the Lady Lions back up by 10.
“After they cut the lead to eight, we made it a point of getting the ball into the post,” said Maggie Lucas. “Alex’s stop, layup and our defense turned it around for us.”
Despite the sloppy play and turnovers to begin the second half, Penn State head coach Coquese Washington was pleased with her team’s effort tonight, especially the play of sophomore forward Ariel Edwards.
“I thought she did a really good job on the both ends of the floor tonight,” Washington said of Edwards. “She was really active defensively which gave her the adrenaline on the offensive side tonight. She was a huge lift for us.”
Edwards, who had only two points her last game against Minnesota, turned it around Thursday night and finished the game with 14 points off the bench.
“Any player has moments when they're not going to play their best,” said Edwards. “The important thing for me was to take that [Minnesota] game as a learning experience and come out ready to play the next game.”
Along with Lucas and Edwards, the Lady Lions had two other players in double figures Thursday. Alex Bentley and Mia Nickson scored 14 and 11 points respectively.
Wisconsin senior forward Anya Covington led all scorers with 20 points. Covington provided a huge spark off the bench for the Badgers and played an integral role in Wisconsin’s attempted comeback in the second half. Her turn around jumper gave the Lady Lions fits all night long.
“I tried to get her in and out with short minutes,” said Wisconsin head coach Bobbie Kelsey. “The post really did their job tonight we screened well in trying to get the ball to our guards, but overall we were just too sloppy.”
With the win, Washington picked up her 85th career win. The Lady Lions swept the two-game season series with the Badgers for the first time since 2004-05. Penn State is now 27-10 all-time against the Badgers, including a 16-2 mark in home games.
The Lady Lions close out the road portion of their regular-season schedule with a pair of games at Northwestern (Feb. 12) and at Purdue (Feb. 16) before returning home for their final two games against Ohio State on Feb. 20 and for the Pink Zone game vs. Minnesota on Feb. 26. Those home games will be broadcast live on ComRadio.
Tom Zulewski is a junior majoring in Journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.