By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After allowing 72 points over the first five games of conference play, the Lady Lions defense came up big on Monday night, allowing nearly half of that average to the visiting Wisconsin Badgers in a 76-46 victory at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Wisconsin's 46 points were the fewest points allowed in a
game by Penn State against any team since December of 2015 when Sacred Heart
scored the same amount. It was also the least the Lady Lions have allowed in
Big Ten play since Wisconsin was only able to put up 40 one day shy of exactly
four years ago.
Out of the gate, the Lady Lions struggled to keep up with the Badgers. In the game's first five minutes, Wisconsin led Penn State 13-8 off of 6-7 shooting, knocking down its only attempt from three. Penn State, on the other hand, shot just 3 of 10 from the field and 0 of 4 from behind the arc.
Where the Blue and White were still able to have life was from their ability to cause turnovers and capitalize off of them. In that same time frame, Wisconsin had four turnovers that Penn State was able to convert just as many points out of, giving them half of their early point total.
The offense would eventually catch up in the first quarter and tie it up at 18, but the team would still go on droughts with not much offensive production. The defense was able to step up in these situations, pressuring the Badgers to force bad passes that led to steals or contested shots.
A lot of the success came off of the emphasis of being aggressive in the team's man coverage, allowing the team to take the ball in the other direction, coach Coquese Washington said.
"Once we settled down and did a better job at contesting shots, we had a little more activity with our hands and being disruptive defensively and then we were able to get going in transition," Washington said.
The Lady Lions' defense was particularly successful in the second and third quarters, where a stretch of 8:12 that bridged the two halves went by without a Wisconsin field goal. Branching off of that cold streak, the visitors continued to struggle, going on 3-24 from the field over 15:10 of play.
Coupled with an offensive surge by Penn State in the third quarter that saw the Lady Lions shoot 4 of 8 from deep, the Blue and White outscored Wisconsin 22-8 and broke out to a commanding 58-34 lead.
"We take pride in being a third quarter team," team captain Sierra Moore said. "We just talked about what we needed to do coming out of the second half and we came out there and executed it."
Entering the game, Wisconsin had already been in a rough place offensively when it came to keeping possession of the ball, averaging 21.7 turnovers over the team's last three matchups. That was no different Monday night as Penn State exploited the Badgers carelessness with the ball.
In just the first half alone, Penn State won the turnover battle 14-4, which included six steals and resulted to 16 points off of turnovers. At the end of the night, those numbers grew to 23 forced turnovers to just six from the Lady Lions, along with ten steals and nearly a third of the team's points scored off turnovers with 25.
In fact, the Lady Lions were so efficient at causing turnovers, Wisconsin's final turnover rate (31.5%) ended up being higher than its scoring rate (30.1%).
In the end, Penn State's defense spelt disaster for the Badgers, and now it will be just a matter of time to see whether Monday night's phenomenal defense can start much-needed momentum for the Lady Lions through the rest of Big Ten play.
Up next, Penn State takes on Nebraska at the Bryce
Jordan Center on Thursday at 7 p.m.