Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was an unconventional win for the No. 11/10 Lady Lions as they relied heavily on their defensive pressure to counteract an off shooting day in their 60-50 win over South Dakota State.
After a slow first half, Penn State took control in the last 20 minutes of play and never let the Jackrabbits back in the game after making critical adjustments at halftime.
"I suggested that we do a better job defensively," said head coach Coquese Washington. "I thought we defended a little better and we did get going in transition a little bit (in the second half)."
In the second half alone Washington's squad tallied four blocks, six steals and forced 11 SDSU turnovers, which helped build their lead midway through the half. Guard Maggie Lucas had all four blocks in the half, which set a career high for the junior.
"Yeah, I don't know what she was doing today," said Washington. "She couldn't make a shot, but she had four blocks. She is focused on being a complete player."
Lucas tallied a season low nine points on 2-for-12 shooting from the field and connected on one three pointer, at the 7:12 mark of the second half, the only made shot from downtown for any Lady Lion.
Alex Bentley also had a down shooting day as she shot 5-for-13 from the field and hit three of four free throws for a 13 point performance. On a day where neither team's shots were falling, the senior captain reminded her teammates that off days do occur and Sunday was one of those types of games.
"Those nights are going to happen, that's what I told my teammates," said Bentley. "Nobody is going to have a perfect shooting night and it is very frustrating because a lot of us work on our shot, but it's just something that you have to learn from and move on from."
Bentley thought that the type of game that was played Sunday was a defensive test, specifically for the team's guards who had to stop the Jackrabbits from penetrating on the offensive end. The Lady Lions did exactly that as they stopped SDSU's leading scorer Megan Waytashek in the second half as she tallied 4 points while shooting just 16 percent.
Offensively for Penn State, senior center Nikki Greene provided a boost inside with 12 of her 17 points coming in the second half. Greene adjusted well in the second half by scoring six of the Lady Lions' first seven points.
"Going into halftime Coquese pretty much said that the post players had to be more involved in the offense," said Greene. "My whole focus in the second half was to just do whatever I needed to do to contribute to the team."
Getting Greene involved more offensively is something that Washington said is still a work in progress, but her performance in the second half against the Jackrabbits showed how effective she can be.
"We really like her on the floor when she's aggressive and assertive," said Washington. "She's a strong offensive player and she makes our team a lot better when she is playing the way she did in the second half."
Penn State will be off this week for finals before they play NJIT at home on Dec. 23 in their last non-conference game prior to their Big Ten opener against Northwestern on Jan. 3.