In Game Blog: Women's Basketball vs. Northwestern

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome back to in-game coverage of 2012-13 Lady Lions basketball season.  Insight and reaction will be provided by GoPSUsports.com throughout the game, so check back often as the action unfolds.

Take a look back at Penn State's 73-69 victory over Northwestern to open Big Ten play. It was the 13th straight home victory for Penn State and improves their record to 7-0 at home this season.

Today's Game in 140 Characters: Reverse B1G opener trend vs. Wildcats...continue 2 force turnovers, but limit giveaways...get Lucas open looks from 3pt range & run, run, run

The Starting Five
Lady Lions - G- Bentley, G- Lucas, G- Taylor, F- Nickson, C- Greene
Wildcats - G- Roser, F- Hackney, F- Douglas, F- Lyon, C- Diamant

1st Half: 14:42 - Penn State 5, Northwestern 8
Northwestern controlled the tempo for the first three minutes and leads 6-0, but Alex Bentley cut that lead in half with a three pointer. A Mia Nickson put-back cut the deficit to one before Kendall Hackney's layup pushed the game back to three points in favor of NU. The Wildcats started four post players and that has presented some problems on both ends of the floor for the Blue and White. PSU has missed four layups, but have forced four turnovers to just two committed at the first break.

1st Half: 11:45 - No. 9/9 Penn State 10, Northwestern 13
It hasn't been a crisp start for the Lady Lions with a handful of missed layups and six fouls, but a pair of big three pointers - one from Bentley and one from Maggie Lucas - has kept the score close. Lucas has been guarded tightly so far by a pair of Northwestern players and is just one-for-five from the field. The junior nearly knotted the game with a three-pointer, but it rimmed out and was followed by a PSU foul to send us to our second break.

1st Half: 7:50 - No. 9/9 Penn State 16, Northwestern 20
The margin has grown, but the Lady Lions are starting to play their style of basketball; forcing nine turnovers through the first 12 minutes of the game. The Lions are shooting just 21 percent from the field, while Northwestern is connecting on 52 percent of their attempts to hold their lead. Lucas leads all scorers with seven points, two coming on wide open three point attempts. PSU will have to start connecting on their open looks, as the Lady Lions have missed seven layups in the opening half.

1st Half: 3:30 - No. 9/9 Penn State 27, Northwestern 31
Since we last talked, the shots have started falling for Penn State. The Lady Lions have hit three of their last six shots, including Lucas' third three pointer of the night, but the Wildcats are making the most of their opportunities, despite 12 turnovers. We knew that PSU would have to limit their turnovers and they have done that, committing only five in the game, but the shooting percentage will have to make a drastic change over the final 23-plus minutes of tonight's game if they are going to come away with a win.

End of 1st Half - No. 9/9 Penn State 32, Northwestern 38
Lucas hasn't seen many open looks, but when she has they have been nothing but net. The junior leads all scorers with 15 points, however, Northwestern has owned a huge edge in the paint and the Lady Lions have missed 10 layups in the opening 20 minutes. The Wildcats hold a 26-15 edge on the glass - which is not a huge surprise with the size advantage - and Penn State has forced 13 turnovers and committed just five, which is an improvement from the non-conference schedule. Penn State shot just 27 percent and will have to be more efficient on the offensive end, while limiting the high percentage shots on the defensive end after allowing NU to shoot 51 percent in the opening half.

2nd Half: 15:29 - No. 9/9 Penn State 39, Northwestern 44
The second half has been more of the same for the Lady Lions. Penn State is launching shots from all over the floor, but hasn't connected on a high percentage of them. PSU is just three-for-11 to open the second half, but have forced four turnovers so fat in the second stanza. If Penn State doesn't convert turnovers and easy looks into points, they could be looking at their seventh Big Ten opening loss in the last eight years.

2nd Half: 11:58 - No. 9/9 Penn State 45, Northwestern 45
The defensive pressure forced a handful of Northwestern missteps and the Lady Lions took advantage of them over the last four minutes and handful of empty trips by Northwestern has led to a tie ballgame. Penn State continues to force turnovers - pushing their total to 20 for the game - and is even in the scoring column with the Wildcats for the first time since the opening tip. Hold on tight, this finish could be a wild one.

2nd Half: 7:50 - No. 9/9 Penn State 52, Northwestern 51
Lucas' third point of the second half was a big one, giving the Lions their first lead of the game with 11:43 left in the second half. Outside of the obvious shooting percentages and rebound margin, Penn State is winning on every other front, but lead by only one. PSU has forced 22 turnovers - committing just seven - and are 15-for-22 from the free throw stripe, but will need to continue their solid play on both fronts to win this contest.

2nd Half: 3:25 - No. 9/9 Penn State 58, Northwestern 62
With their top two players - Hackney and Diamant -exiled to the bench with five fouls each, the Wildcats clawed their way back into the lead at the final break. Alex Cohen banked in a desperation three pointer at the end of the shot clock and a pair of free throws from Roser made it a six point affair, but a Greene layup closed the gap back to four points, which seems to be the stopgap for the Lady Lions tonight. Greene's fifth foul sent the game to the final break in the action, as the best post option for the Lions will sit the final 3:25 of the game.

FINAL - No. 9/9 Penn State 58, Northwestern 62
The Lady Lions didn't shoot the ball like the ninth best team in the country, but they showed the resolve of a top-10 team in their nail-biting victory over Northwestern. The 73-69 victory moved their home court winning streak to 13 games and opened Big Ten play with a victory for just the second time in the last eight years.

When you are struggling with your shot, you have to find other ways to win a game and the Blue and White did just that. They shot over 70 percent from the free throw line (24-of-33), forced 28 turnovers and scored when it mattered.  

Dara Taylor had connected on just four-of-12 shots on the night, but the fourth bucket was the biggest for the Lions. The junior guard slashed through the lane on a fast break and converted to push PSU ahead, 66-65, and after another NU turnover, Ariel Edwards then cut through the lane for a left-handed finish to move the lead to three points and the Lions never looked back.

In the game, PSU compiled just a 29 percent shooting effort from the floor, while the Wildcats ended the game at 44 percent shooting. The Lady Lions committed just 12 turnovers, however, and compiled 19 steals.

Fast Break Press Conference Recap

"When you bank in a three you feel like it's your night, but you have to play all 40 minutes and we preach that all the time. We just didn't finish the game. I think (Karly) Roser played very well tonight against the best backcourt in the conference and we played well as a unit in our first Big Ten game. This gives us something to build on moving forward."
- Northwestern head coach Joe McKeown

"I don't feel fortunate. I know that the Big Ten Conference is not easy, top to bottom. It's not easy to win games at home. It's not easy to win on the road. (Northwestern) came in and played us tough...Our shots weren't falling early and theirs were. I think there was a little rust, but we are going to (play) tough games in the Big Ten Conference. Northwestern is a good team with some good players and we're going to see more of that (in the Big Ten)."
- Head coach Coquese Washington

"We've been waiting for that for a while. Mia (Nickson) missed some times in the spring and the fall with some nagging injuries and she missed some practice time. We knew that it would take a little while for her to round into form and I think this is just the tip of the iceberg for her."
- Head coach Coquese Washington on Mia Nickson's double-double

"We feel very fortunate (to win the game). We know the Big Ten is a great conference from the top to the bottom. Not everything went our way tonight...but at the end we got the stops we needed to and pulled it out."
- Junior guard Maggie Lucas

"It was just one of those nights. Tonight (shots) just weren't falling for us."

- Junior guard Maggie Lucas on the team's tough shooting night

                     


What To Look For:

- Penn State continues to hold on to their top-10 ranking in the latest polls, holding firm at No. 9 in both the AP and USA Today/ESPN polls. The Lady Lions moved up one spot in this week's rankings and enter their Big Ten opener on a four-game winning streak.

- Nikki Greene owns the lone 20-rebound game in the Big Ten this season, but it is Mia Nickson that owns the most 10-plus rebound games on the team. Greene and Nickson have each led the team in rebounding four times in 2012-13, but Nickson has three games with ten or more rebounds, while Greene has only two. Nickson pulled down ten boards at Virginia Tech, 11 at Texas A&M and ten vs. Howard, while Greene hauled in 20 rebounds at Cal State Northridge and 13 against Georgetown.

- The Blue and White have claimed five straight wins over Northwestern and have won 30 of 37 meetings since the two teams first tipped against each other in 1979. During the current five game winning streak Penn State has claimed each game by 10-or-more points, including a 20-point win on Jan. 3, 2010 in Evanston, Ill.

- Junior guard Maggie Lucas ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring and is No. 15 nationally with a 20.9 points per game average. She is just 0.5 ppg behind Minnesota's Rachel Banham, who is averaging 21.4 points in 14 games. Lucas has seven, 20-point games in 2012-13 and owns one of the ten 30-point games in the Big Ten this season.

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