By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's becoming a recurring theme for the No. 8 Penn State Lady Lions. Home game. Bryce Jordan Center. Suffocating defense. Steals. Buckets.
None of that changed Thursday night against Wisconsin as the Lady Lions forced 24 Badger turnovers in their 84-40 win to get to 4-0 in the Big Ten.
Alex Bentley started the game off in typical Lady Lion fashion pressuring the opponent's point guard, forcing an early turnover and attacking the basket with a flashy lay up. Her teammates have bought into the same style of play, as well.
In the first two minutes and 12 seconds, Penn State forced three Badger turnovers that in turn produced four Lady Lion points.
"We want to get after it and we want to pressure on the defensive end and get some easy baskets and get some transition baskets," said head coach Coquese Washington.
By the end of the first half, the Wisconsin turnover total grew to 17 and Penn State scored 17 points off turnovers. After 40 minutes, Bentley and company tallied 29 points off turnovers and 15 on the fast break. Wisconsin couldn't handle the pressure and not many teams have in 2013.
"It's not necessarily game specific, although we do some of that, but a lot of it is fundamentals in the foundation of our defensive principles," said Washington. "We spend a lot of time in practice reinforcing our defensive principles. Our foundation has to be solid and I think it's getting better and better as the season goes along."
The 24 forced turnovers fell just three shy of the school record of 27, which was set this season against Lafayette.
It all starts with Bentley and Dara Taylor providing pressure at the top of the defensive rotation and it trickles down to the other three players on the court forcing opponents to take tough shots and even enter the no fly zone Nikki Greene has created in the paint. Greene had two more blocks against Wisconsin extending her season total to 18.
"They have the guards that really get out and deny that make it hard for other teams and Taylor does a nice job pressuring the ball with Maggie (Lucas) on the wing making you do something you don't want to do," said Wisconsin head coach Bobbie Kelsey.
Adding Taylor to the mix makes Penn State even more lethal defensively, according to the second year head coach.
"She's a quick guard," said Kelsey. "She pressures the ball real well and uses her hands well and her feet. She's just athletic. We need some of that on our side."
Bentley and Taylor have combined to intensify the defensive pressure at the top of they key, especially as of late in Big Ten play, which is a goal they set coming into each game.
"What we do is pressure up," said Bentley. "We have (Dara) Taylor picking it up in the back court and that girl is very, very quick. It is hard to get past her. She is going to force a lot of turnovers. Our defensive principles are to pressure up so we expect a lot of turnovers."
The Lady Lions will have to bring that defensive spark on the road to Ann Arbor on Monday, where they will clash with No. 25 Michigan who, like Penn State, has yet to drop a game in conference play.