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In Game Blog: Women's Basketball vs. Michigan State

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

Penn State posted their 20th victory of the season with a 71-56 victory over Michigan State on Sunday inside the Bryce Jordan Center. It was a hard-fought contest and you can see how it unraveled with the running live blog below.

Today's Game Preview in 140 Characters: Clashing styles meet in BJC...#PennState must push pace, keep physical MSU defense out of sync...limiting TO's is key 4 PSU...Bentley must b huge

First Five on the Floor (Starting lineups)
Lady Lions -
G- Bentley, G- Lucas, G- Taylor, F- Nickson, C- Greene
Spartans - G- Bell, G- Johnson, G-Thomas, F- Schiffauer, C- Hines

1st Half: 15:57 - No. 8/9 Penn State 2, Michigan State 7
Penn State has come out flat and Michigan State's physical defense has a lot to do with that. Each time the Lady Lions enter the paint there is a hand in their face and a little bumping going on. The Spartans are not showing any hesitation against the Lions and are sharing the basketball well and taking advantage of poor rotations from the PSU defense. The Spartans bench is very vocal, as they were for most of the pregame festivities, as well. Dar Taylor has been getting the ball into the post, but a couple of missed layups have kept the scoring down early for PSU.

1st Half: 10:55 - No. 8/9 Penn State 9, Michigan State 15
It has been a very emotionally charged game from the opening tip and Penn State has to feel like they should be ahead in this game. The Lady Lions have had multiple looks under the hoop that they haven't been able to convert and the Spartans have made the baskets that they should have. Michigan State is shooting an even 50 percent (6-of-12), but Penn State is connecting on just 23 percent (3-of-13) from the floor.  

1st Half: 7:10 - No. 8/9 Penn State 11, Michigan State 20
Michigan State is clearly the most confident team I've seen roll into the Bryce Jordan Center this season, as their entire bench is into the game cheering and encouraging each other since the start. Penn State, on the other hand, has come out a little flat, but we've seen it before. The first half has not been a great shooting half at home lately for the Lady Lions. The third four-minute segment of the first half will have to be won by the Lady Lions if they want to keep within striking distance. Alex Bentley and Mia Nickson each have three, while Maggie Lucas has four points to lead the Blue and White.

1st Half: 3:54 - No. 8/9 Penn State 21, Michigan State 24
I knew that Penn State was going to have to win the third four minute stretch of the contest and they did that. The Lady Lions came out of the media timeout and got a pair of free throws from Bentley, followed by three straight baskets from Nikki Greene to pull within one point before Michigan State took a time out. The Spartans responded with four straight points to get their lead back to five, but another Greene basket pulled it to a three point advantage at the final break of the opening half. A great crowd inside the BJC has really helped fuel the Lady Lions on their recent run.

End of 1st Half - No. 8/9 Penn State 32, Michigan State 27
With 7:10 remaining in the first half this game went to the third media timeout and Coquese Washington calmly sat down and must have sent a direct message to her team. That message was received as the Lions outscored Michigan State 21-7 down the stretch and really took control of the game on both ends of the floor. Nikki Greene and Alex Bentley led all scorers with nine points, while Maggie Lucas has poured in seven points.

PSU attacked the final seven minutes with the intensity that the Spartans showed in the opening 13 of the game. Michigan State cooled off a little from the floor, ending the half at 35 percent shooting, while Penn State picked up the pace and ended the opening 20 minutes at 34 percent shooting. The free throw line was all the Lady Lions, as well. They hit nine-of-11 from the charity stripe, ended the half with nine straight makes, while MSU is just four-of-seven from the line.

2nd Half: 14:20 - No. 8/9 Penn State 44, Michigan State 34
The second half has started much like the first half ended; with Penn State imposing their will on the Spartans. A nine-point deficit with seven minutes to play in the first half was followed by a wakeup call from Coquese Washington and the Lady Lions have responded with a 33-12 run to grab control of the game. Michigan State was the physical presence early, but it has been Penn State pushing around the Spartans and knocking down nearly every shot here in the second half, hitting five of the seven shots they attempted.

2nd Half: 11:49 - No. 8/9 Penn State 53, Michigan State 34
Since we last chatted, Penn State has begun to completely pick apart Michigan State. The Lady Lions have forced eight turnovers and held Michigan State to just seven second half points. Bentley and Lucas have dominated the second half with eight points each and Taylor is tied with Bentley for game-high with four steals. Penn State has turned the ball over just twice in the second half and continues to shoot well from the floor to build the 19 point lead.

2nd Half: 7:18 - No. 8/9 Penn State 57, Michigan State 44
That's what I get for talking up the Lady Lions during the last media timeout. Penn State has reverted back to their early game sloppiness. A couple of turnovers and some not so good rotations on the defensive end have given the Spartans a few offensive rebounds, as well, to lead to a 10-4 run for the Spartans. Bentley has been stupendous tonight with three assists, four steals and 17 points on six-of-12 shooting.

2nd Half: 3:56 - No. 8/9 Penn State 61, Michigan State 52
There has been a lot of hands on the knees and fouls over the last six-plus minutes in this game, but Michigan State has fought their way right back into this game. Annallise Pickrel hit two big three pointers and the Lady Lions have been less than crisp at the free throw line of late. That combination has allowed Michigan State trimmed the Lions lead to single digits at the final break. Penn State has scored 60-plus points in both meetings with MSU this season, marking just the sixth time in 22 games that a team has eclipsed the 60-point mark.

FINAL - No. 8/9 Penn State 71, Michigan State 56
Michigan State was the better team to start the game, but the Lady Lions took over the contest with 7:10 to play in the opening half and rode the momentum to their first two-game, season sweep of Michigan State since 2003-04. In the process, Penn State has hung at least 70 points on the Spartans for the second time this season, marking just the third time in 2012-13 that MSU has allowed 70 points, and grab a two-game lead over Purdue atop the Big Ten standings.

Penn State took the momentum and ran away from the Spartans with a 21-7 run to end the opening half and pushed that momentum into the start of the second half. The victory gives the Nittany Lions at least 20 victories for the third straight season and 25th time in program history.

The points came in a variety of ways; 32 points in the paint, 29 points off of turnovers, 12 second chance points and 13 points on the fast break. The Spartans got 21 points off of the bench, to just four points for the Penn State reserves, but that bench helped PSU keep the defensive pressure turned up all night.

After starting the game cold from the field, the Lady Lions ended the night with a 43 percent clip from the field and connected on 72 percent of their shots from the free throw stripe. The Spartans dominated the  boards, 41-33, and grabbed 18 offensive rebounds, but Penn State forced 22 turnovers and only gave the ball away 12 times on the night.

Fast Break Press Conference Quotes
"We just had to adjust. Coach told us what we needed to do and we did it. She told us we needed to step up the defensive intensity and start hitting shots and that's what we did."
-Senior Alex Bentley

"We always feed off of our defense...we try to get into passing lanes and D up. We like to play fast and [defensive pressure] helps us do that. We like to turn our defense into offense when we can."
-Senior Alex Bentley

"The fans really helped out a lot when we started to pick up the defenseive pressure and that really helped us carry that momentum."
-Senior Nikki Greene

"It is just awesome to be able to play in the environment that we play in now. When Nikki and I got here, we didn't have these types of crowds, but to see the fans come out and support us like they did tonight is great to see."
-Senior Alex Bentley

"Our defense really turned things around. I think we did a better job of not giving them easy shots. We weren't pusing the ball up the court, we were kind of muddling through the game and I told them that. Our defensive intensity got us some chances in transition and we were able to finish."
-Head coach Coquese Washington

"We want to make it tough for people to get good shots or get open looks. I think we got more confident defensively late in the game and that helped us. We'll take 29 points off of turnovers."
-Head coach Coquese Washington

"The crowd was fantastic. To walk out in the pregame and see all of those white shirts was amazing. We have some dramatic players on our team and to hear and see that crowd really helped them tonight."
-Head coach Coquese Washington


What To Look For:

- It was just over 13 months since the Lady Lions last lost inside the Bryce Jordan Center and that blemish to the record came to the Spartans. It was a 75-65 setback to an unranked Michigan State team on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012. Penn State didn't take the Spartan's infiltration of their home court well and have reeled off 17 straight wins in Happy Valley.

- With one blocked shot at Indiana on Thursday evening, senior Nikki Greene became the first Lady Lion to eclipse the 1,000 point, 900 rebound and 200 block plateaus in a career. The 6-foot-4 center has 200 swats, 916 boards and 1,026 points in 121 career stats. The Diboll, Texas native has started every game since stepping on campus and will closing in on Tanisha Wright's school record of 134 games played.

- The Lady Lions have five players on their current roster that have tallied 500-plus points in their career. Maggie Lucas (1,629) and Alex Bentley (1,625) lead the way and continue to climb the Lady Lions top ten list, while Nikki Green (1,026) notched her 1,000th point against Minnesota on Jan. 24. Mia Nickson has poured in 744 points in her PSU career and 789 between her stints with the Lady Lions and Boston College, while Ariel Edwards moved past the 500-point plateau  at Wisconsin on Jan. 31 and now has 513 points.


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