By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
In the first postseason game for Penn State in three years,
the Lady Lions stayed alive by beating the visiting Ohio Bobcats, 74-65, in the
first round of the WNIT.
The Lady Lions were a little bit slow out of the gate, trailing 9-0 through just under three whole minutes of action. Head coach Coquese Washington realized the need for things to change and called a vital timeout.
"Really I said 'okay, now we've gotta get back,'" Washington said to her squad in the huddle. "'We've had a few minutes to get our legs up under us, to get a feel for how they're playing, now we've gotta adjust and we've gotta start executing and doing the things that we've practiced,' and we started to do that."
Penn State responded by knocking down the 10 of the next 12 buckets, including two consecutive three-pointers by Teniya Page and Jaida Travascio-Green to start the second quarter. With the surge, the Blue and White took the 22-15 lead, a lead they would not lost for the rest of the game.
A big part of the Lady Lions success was generated by a defensive switch from man to zone. From that point on, Penn State was able to close the inside of the perimeter and force the Bobcats to have to shoot from outside. On a normal night, this would play right into the hands of Ohio, who nationwide have hit the ninth most three-pointers (282) on the sixth most attempts (939). But on this night, the Lady Lions were able to contain them to just 3-21 shooting from behind the arc in the first three quarters of play.
"I thought maybe one or two of them I didn't love, but I mean we're one of the top ten three-point shooting teams in the country, so you've got to shoot them to make them. And we shot em, and unfortunately we didn't make them tonight," Bobcats head coach Bob Boldon said.
Penn State capitalized on their opponent's woes and took off, with the bench play providing the fuel. Led by Sierra Moore and Siyeh Frazier, the Lady Lions continued to coast throughout the majority of the game. By the game's end, the Blue and White would outscore the visitors 28-6 with their reserves.
The senior, Moore, finished just short of her 21-point career high with a season-high 20 points. She also collected six rebounds and two assists, making her first postseason game one to remember.
"I'm not surprised for Sierra," Washington said. "She plays hard every night, she's explosive, she's energetic and I knew she would come out and work really hard tonight to have a big game."
The freshman, Frazier, also made splashes as she chalked up her first double-digit outing as a collegiate student-athlete. Her 10 points made her one of four Lady Lions to do so on the night, and her performance sparked a wave of energy over the whole team as she wore her passion on her sleeve.
"She's been practicing really well," Washington said about Frazier. "She's got fresh energetic legs, gets out in transition for us. She got a couple of offensive rebounds that were big for us. It's good to see her progressing and being able to play with a lot of confidence at this point of the season."
Among other contributors, Amari Carter and Teniya Page joined Moore and Frazier in scoring double digits, while Page also recorded a career-high nine rebounds. The only teammate to top her in that department was Kaliyah Mitchell, who grabbed 10 boards and added eight points.
With everyone having a hand in the victory, the performance showed how versatile Penn State can be. In order to make a deep run in the tournament, it will take an all-around effort like that from everyone on the roster.
"We're a really unselfish team so whatever is working that night is what we go to, so if we have a different kind of matchup, that's what we go to," Moore said. "We have a lot of strengths on the team, and everyone can do a specific thing, so whenever it's their time to shine and do their role that they're good at, then that's what we're gonna do."
With the win, Penn State moves onto the second round where it will face the Fordham Rams. The game will take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 19 at the Bryce Jordan Center.