Penn State Women's Basketball: Lady Lions Sneak Past Northwestern with Late Free Throws
The Penn State Lady Lions had an extended break not having played a game since Dec. 23 and it showed for about 38 minutes of the 40-minute contest Thursday night at the Bryce Jordan Center against Northwestern in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
The contest was a see-saw affair over the last 11 minutes, with the Lady Lions' largest lead of five coming in the final two minutes before clutch free throws gave Penn State the 73-69 win.
"We didn't make shots early and I do think that there is a little bit of rust for us, having our last game a few weeks ago," Penn State coach Coquese Washington told reporters after the game. "So, I'm not sitting here thinking, 'Oh my gosh, we're awful,' and, 'We didn't play great.' Northwestern is a good team."
Penn State was led by Maggie Lucas, who scored 24 despite a Box-and-1 defense deployed by Wildcats coach Joe McKeown, a similar defense several other teams have used against Lucas. Joining Lucas in double figures was Mia Nickson, who scored 14 points and pulled down 13 rebounds for her 13th double double of her career.
The Wildcats led the entire game until a Lucas free throw gave the Lady Lions a 46-45 lead with 11:44 remaining in the game. The Lady Lions struggled from the field, as they shot only 29.9 percent for the game. Alex Bentley struggled, shooting only 1-for-11 but was 6-for-6 from the free throw line, making four in clutch late-game situations to help ice the win.
"We practice late game situations and we're pretty confident that down at the end we can get a stop," Lucas told reporters. "We just have to communicate and make it happen. That's staying together as a team no matter what happens."
Penn State is back in action Sunday afternoon at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich. when it takes on Michigan State.