Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK Pa. - About two hours after Nittany Lion forward Brandon Taylor hit a half court shot as time expired in the first half against Purdue, Lady Lions' guard Alex Bentley did the exact same thing, from almost the exact same spot against Nebraska.
Bentley's 50 footer capped off a 14-4 Penn State run in the last 3:04 of the first half silencing any momentum the visiting Cornhuskers had prior to the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year's highlight of the day.
Before the shot dropped, Nebraska had the ball with a chance to get the deficit under 10 points and go into the half with a reasonable chance to keep with the eighth-ranked Lady Lions. However, with two seconds left on the clock Bentley forced a Cornhusker turnover and launched the half court shot that floated through the air and into the net as the Bryce Jordan Center crowd erupted.
"We were talking about finishing the half strong, and that's all I was focusing on," said Bentley. "They had a chance to get a score, so we obviously wanted to get a stop. I got the ball and pushed it up and saw clock and shot it."
It was a dagger. All of the momentum shifted to the Lady Lions and they never gave it back. Penn State went on a 17-6 run in the first five minutes of the second half and eventually won the game, 80-58.
Bentley and Maggie Lucas picked up the intensity toward the end of the first half on both ends of the floor and their emotion showed as Bentley's shot fell and the buzzer sounded. The two all-conference guards played with the same intensity the rest of the game and it proved that their worth goes beyond a made shot or a string of defensive stops.
"They're obviously the emotional leaders on this team," said junior guard Dara Taylor. "When things are going good or bad, you can lean on them to give us a spark, give us energy and our team really feeds off of it. Once they get going, the rest of us pick up, feed off of it, and it's really great."
In the last four minutes of the first half head coach Coquese Washington saw her defensive intensity pick up and it continued into the second half. Washington leaned on Lucas and Bentley to carry her team coming out of the under four minute media timeout and into the second half and that is exactly what happened. The leadership of Bentley and Lucas is constant and it showed Sunday against Nebraska.
"Their intensity and their competitiveness, as well as their will to win rubs off onto the team," said Washington. "The team follows their lead, follows their mentality. There is not one minute on the floor when those two aren't intense."
Penn State will be right back in the Bryce Jordan Center on Thursday, Jan. 17 against Wisconsin before heading to Ann Arbor to face Michigan on Jan. 21.