Bentley's Three Lifts No. 19/21 Lady Lions Past Minnesota, 68-65
Feb. 5, 2012
MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. - Junior guard Alex Bentley (Indianapolis, Ind.) connected on a three-pointer with 38.9 seconds left to lift the No. 19/21 Penn State Lady Lions (18-5, 8-3) to a 68-65 win at Minnesota (12-12, 4-6) Sunday afternoon. The win snaps a seven-game losing streak in Minneapolis, dating back to Dec. 28, 2001. Additionally, sophomore guard Maggie Lucas (Narberth, Pa.) became the third sophomore and 34th player overall in Penn State history to reach 1,000 career points.
Lucas connected on a three-pointer in the second half to reach the milestone and is believed to be the 11th-fastest player in Big Ten history to reach the mark. She also dished out four assists. Junior forward Mia Nickson (Asburn, Va.) was 5-for-9 from the field and 10-for-12 from the free throw line en route to a season-high 20 points. She narrowly missed out on a double-double with nine rebounds and three assists.
Bentley scored 10 of her 16 points in the second half and surpassed the 1,200-point mark for her career. She also tallied four assists and six steals to move into 14th place on Penn State's career steals list. Senior guard Zhaque Gray (Chicago, Ill.) had eight points on the night, including a pair of key three-pointers in the win.
Neither team could find an offensive rhythm early, but the Golden Gophers were able to establish a 19-6 lead in the first 12 minutes as the Lady Lions were just 1-for-18 from the field. A jumper by Tori Waldner (Milton, Ga.) snapped a 10-minute field goal drought for Penn State and cut the deficit to 11 (19-8). The squads exchanged scores over the next several possession until four consecutive tallies by the Golden Gophers made it 27-15 with 4:53 left.
Nickson scored five consecutive points to kick off an 11-2 Penn State run that ended with a Lucas three-pointer to close the gap to six points (29-23) with 1:36 left in the half. However, Minnesota would score three of the last four points of the half to take a 32-24 lead at the break.
Nickson led Penn State with seven points and three rebounds, while Bentley added six points and two steals. Lucas chipped in five points and Waldner notched four points off of the bench. The Lady Lions shot just 28.6%, including a 1-for-9 effort from three-point range, in the opening frame.
The Lady Lions scored the first four points of the second half thanks to two free throws from Nickson and a bucket from Nikki Greene (Diboll, Texas) to pull within four (32-28) just over a minute into the frame. Minnesota responded by going on a 9-4 spurt to stretch their margin back to nine (41-32) with 16 minutes left in the game.
Following a layup by Greene, Lucas drained a three-pointer to secure her 1,000th career point and close the gap to 41-37 with 15:31 on the clock. The Gophers responded with an old-fashioned three-point play, but Gray nailed a triple and Ariel Edwards (Elmont, N.Y.) converted on a pair of free throws to make it a two-point game (44-42) with 13:19 remaining.
Minnesota would score five of the game's next seven points to push the margin back to five before buckets by Lucas and Bentley pulled Penn State within one (49-48) with 10:39 left. Following a basket by the Gophers, Nickson converted on an old-fashioned three-point play to even the score at 51-51 and start a 7-0 spurt to give the Lady Lions a 55-51 lead with 7:24 remaining.
The squads exchanged scoring opportunities to make it a 60-55 Penn State lead with 4:43 on the clock before Minnesota clicked off an 8-0 run to take a 63-60 lead with 1:29 remaining. On the ensuing Lady Lion possession, Gray hit a deep three-pointer to tie the score at 63-63 with 1:14 left. Minnesota responded as Rachel Banham was fouled and made both of her both of her free throws to give the Gophers a 65-63 lead with 50.2 seconds left.
On Penn State's next possession, Bentley connected on a three-pointer from the top of arc to give the Lady Lions a one-point lead (66-65) with 38.9 seconds left. The Lady Lions got the defensive stop and Bentley was fouled as she tried to outlet, but she missed the front-end of the one-and-one. However, Nickson was johnny on the spot to nab the offensive rebound and was fouled. She converted on both of her free throws to extend the lead to 68-65. The Gophers had a chance to tie the game but the three-point attempt by Banham was long and Gray grabbed the rebound to secure the win.
GAME NOTES: Sophomore guard Maggie Lucas became the third sophomore and 34th player in school history to reach 1,000 career points with 10 tallies. She now has 1,002 markers in 58 career games ... Junior guard Alex Bentley surpassed the 1,200-point mark for her career with 16 markers to bring her career total to 1,203 ... Junior center Nikki Greene moved into 17th place on Penn State's career rebounding chart, passing assistant coach Maren Walseth (645) and Jess Brungo (649) with 650 career boards ... Bentley also moved into 14th place on the Lady Lions' career steals chart, passing Annie Troyan (187) for the position. Bentley now has 189 career thefts ... Penn State is now 23-11 all-time against Minnesota ... The win snaps a seven-game losing streak in Minneapolis, dating back to Dec. 28, 2001 ... The Lady Lions are now 15-7 in games played on Super Bowl Sunday ... Mia Nickson had a season-high 20 points to go along with nine rebounds ... Freshman guard Tori Waldner tied her career high for the fourth time with six tallies on a 3-for-5 performance from the field.
The Lady Lions are back in the BJC to face Wisconsin on Thursday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. for a Dollar Dog Night game. Penn State hits the road for a pair of games at Northwestern (Feb. 12) and at Purdue (Feb. 16). Both games will air on the Big Ten Network. Single game tickets and PNC Flex Books are available by calling 800-NITTANY. PNC Flex Books are $99 and give fans 12 vouchers, including one for the Coaches vs. Cancer game and one for the Pink Zone game, which can be redeemed for Nittany Lion and Lady Lion Basketball tickets in any combination.
The 2012 WBCA Pink Zone at Penn State will take place on Sunday, Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. as the Lady Lions take on Minnesota in the Bryce Jordan Center. Last year, the Lady Lions donated nearly $200,000 for breast cancer causes. This year's fundraising efforts will benefit the Mount Nittany Medical Center, Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital and Lewistown Hospital. For more information on the Pink Zone at Penn State, visit the official Pink Zone website at www.gopsusports.com/pinkzone. The WBCA Pink Zone at Penn State is also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pinkzoneatpennstate.
The Lady Lions are on Twitter. Follow sports information contact Kris Petersen (@ladylionsid) and the Lady Lions and coaches (@pennstatewbb) to get the inside scoop. The Lady Lions are also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pennstateladylions.