By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Lady Lions closed out the regular season with a big win in front of a big crowd when they defeated No. 24/25 Michigan 76-75 in the annual Pink Zone game on Sunday.
It was an emotional game, with over 500 breast cancer survivors in attendance, all donning pink to show their support. For pregame, each starter was escorted out by a survivor, and senior Sierra Moore was even escorted out by her mom.
Sophomore Ashanti Thomas was playing in her second Pink Zone game, and credits the positive vibes the team was getting from the 8,213 fans in attendance in helping them claw back for the win.
"I loved the crowd and it was a really high energy game," said Thomas. "It was really positive and helped us keep our heads up when things got tough throughout the game. I just thought it was amazing, and the purpose of the game for the survivors, it was just great. There was a lot of support today."
Added head coach Coquese Washington: "Our crowd was fantastic today. Our kids played great off their energy. You could feel that positivity coming from the stands down into the huddle," Washington said. "You could feel the confidence that the crowd and the arena had in our team. There wasn't a moment were we were thinking of anything other than playing our best, giving our best efforts, staying focused, staying locked in and executing."
Redshirt freshman Amari Carter added that the game was the perfect way to end the regular season for the Lady Lions, who head to Indianapolis this week for the Big Ten Tournament.
"This was a great game, and not just for us and what that means for the end of the season but also, for all the survivors who were in the stands and all the family members that came and the cause that we played for," Carter said. "It was just a great way to end the season."
Thomas was a perfect 5-for-5 from the field and tied her career high with 11 points. She gave Penn State's it largest lead of the game, 50-40, in the third quarter with a layup at the tail end of a 7-0 run.
"I just felt really confident, and when my teammates trust in me, it just puts me on another level," Thomas said. "The confidence and the trust that they had and they were willing to pass me the ball even when we were down some, so I just had to stay focused and stay locked in."
Penn State now looks to carry this momentum into the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 7 seed. The Lady Lions will face off No. 10 seed Minnesota at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 2 inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.