By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Only 3.8 seconds remained on the clock and the Lady Lions trailed No. 25 Rutgers, 67-66, with the ball in their possession and an inbounds play coming up. For head coach Coquese Washington, there was only one person who she wanted to have the ball and make a play in the final moments: junior point guard Teniya Page.
"She'd been having a great game, so we wanted to put the ball in her hands and let her make a play," Washington said.
This drew the ire of Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer, who was frustrated with both the call and the fact that her player had committed such a critical foul with so little time remaining. Stringer was assessed a technical foul, meaning Page would shoot two more free throws in addition to the three from the original foul.
"I told myself at the beginning of the play that I just needed to make one free throw. When they told me I had five, I wasn't really worried," Page said.
Page knocked down four of her five foul shots to give the Lady Lions a 70-67 lead.
Rutgers had a chance to tie the game, but a desperation heave fell just short, giving Penn State its first win of the season against a ranked team, and back-to-back wins in conference play for the first time.
"I was a little upset that they got that shot off," Washington said postgame. "Teniya actually tried to miss that last free throw, but that's the kind of night she had."
Page finished with 34 points on 12-of-19 shooting in 38 minutes of action. It's Page's highest scoring output of the season, passing her totals of 27 points on two separate occasions.
Jaida Travascio-Green had a strong night as well, finishing with 15 points. It was a resilient night for her, as she started 0-of-6 from beyond the arc but made three of her final four attempts from three, including two clutch shots in the fourth quarter from the top of the key.
"They always tell me to call for the ball when I'm open, so I called for the ball," Travascio-Green said. "I don't think I really knew what the score was, I just knew that we needed to make shots."
The Lady Lions never lost their composure and, despite a Rutgers comeback spurred by an 8-0 run to give them a lead with a minute to play, they were still able to execute down the stretch with a key layup from Amari Carter and an offensive rebound from Travascio-Green, which set up the final possession and Page's heroics.
"The thing that we talk about every day is that no lead is safe," Washington said. "We just know that the game is really long, and you just have to keep playing and understand that teams are going to go on runs, the ball isn't going to bounce your way. I think that because we've had so many close games, we had a lot of poise in those moments. We weren't really nervous or anything like that. It was really neat to see us be able to execute when we needed to."
The Lady Lions will try to extend their winning streak to three games next Tuesday night when the Illinois Fighting Illini come to town. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. from the Bryce Jordan Center.