By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- It's the time of year where the only thing on the mind of college basketball players around the country is 'survive and advance'. On Sunday the Lady Lions did just that when they beat the Fordham Rams 70-51 in the second round of the WNIT.
After another slow start kept them scoreless for the first three minutes, a situation almost identical to their first round game against Ohio, the Lady Lions closed out the first quarter on a 17-2 run, and never looked back.
"You can't always control whether or not the ball goes in the basket and I thought early on we got some good shots, they just didn't fall," said head coach Coquese Washington. "So our defense was good the first quarter and once we got a few baskets to fall, our defense stayed pretty high and allowed us to get out to a lead that first quarter."
The change in momentum came thanks to a lockdown defensive scheme that held the Rams to just four points in the first frame.
"I think it started with the defense, we got a couple of steals and then we were able to get in transition so I could kind of feel that we were starting to get momentum that way," said sophomore Teniya Page. "We were doing a good job of boxing out and running, so I think it was the defense."
Back-to-back steals from Amari Carter and Sierra Moore put the Lady Lions on the board to jumpstart a 12-0 run to put the Lady Lions up big. Carter ended the contest with a game-high four steals to go along with 15 points.
"I just take what the defense gives me," Carter said. "How they're playing us, whether they're going to double the screens or trap the screens or whatever they want to do. It just depends on how they play us [and that's how I play my game]."
Carter is playing in her first season for Penn State after redshirting last year because of a torn ACL she suffered in the first game.
Washington says that having Carter on the floor now is the difference maker from where the team was a year ago, when the Lady Lions missed the postseason after finishing below .500.
"There's no question one of the differences in the success of this team, and where we are at this point this year versus last year, is Amari Carter's presence," Washington said. "She's a dynamic player and having her on the court just makes us a better team. She gives us more options, she's so fantastic with handling the ball, finding teammates, and giving people easy plays."
Penn State will hope that Carter can continue her dominant play as the team will be without redshirt junior Lindsey Spann as it continues its postseason run, who will be out for the remainder of the year with an injury. Spann was averaging 10.5 points per game in 22.9 minutes per game.
The Lady Lions advance to the Sweet 16 of the WNIT for the first time since the team won it all in the inaugural WNIT in 1998 and will host Virginia Tech at the Bryce Jordan Center on Thursday. Tip is set for 7 p.m.