Lady Lions Finish Strong in First Two Games
Nov. 14, 2011
By Laura Finley, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
Penn State trailed both games at halftime but came to life in the second half going on to win against Washington State and Middle Tennessee State.
"Our will to win is tremendous and we just don't want to lose," said senior guard Zhaque Gray. "We know that even if we don't get it in the first half, we always play better in the second half because we figure things out and [Coach Washington] tells us different things to focus on."
Even with the team struggling during the first half of their games, head coach Coquese Washington knew that the Lady Lions would be able to turn things around and become a viable threat by the end of the games. Penn State did just that, holding their opponents scoreless in the last seven minutes of each game.
"I'm very confident in our team and I'm very confident in our abilities," said coach Washington. "They do a good job of making adjustments. Sometimes it takes them 10-20 minutes to feel out the game so I was pretty confident we would play better the second half and give ourselves an opportunity to win."
The Lady Lions won their season opener against Washington State on Friday and used a strong defense to pull away late in the game, allowing them to take the win 72-60.
Despite the win, the team struggled early against the Washington State defense with 17 turnovers in the first half, putting them down 38-35 at halftime.
"Those were very uncharacteristic turnovers that we had," said Alex Bentley. "I think it's just first game jitters. You know it's our first game, we're really pumped, really excited to get out there on the floor and sometimes stuff like that happens, but we definitely turned it around second half."
During the second half, the Lady Lions made necessary adjustments, retaking the lead with 10 minutes left to play, 59-55. A solid 13-0 run ended the game for the Lady Lions who kept Washington State from scoring in the final minutes.
With defense stressed most of preseason, the team was happy with their dominating performance at the end of the night.
"Down the stretch it just became `we're not going to let them score,'" said sophomore forward/center Talia East. "It wasn't about the offense because we knew that we were up, it was just like main focus is defense."
The Lady Lions returned to the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday afternoon, this time playing Middle Tennessee State. Penn State trailed MTSU from the start, struggling to produce runs on offense and heading into halftime trailing 32-26.
"We were playing kind of slow in the first half," said Maggie Lucas. "The second half was a whole other game. We turned into a whole other gear."
Lucas came out of the locker room, immediately scoring the first three-point shot of the day 11 seconds into the game. MTSU held on to the lead though, sinking three 3-point shots in a row making the score 41-31.
This success was short-lived for MTSU as sophomore forward Ariel Edwards changed the tide of the game five minutes into the second half, making two shots in a row and forcing an MTSU turnover. It was all uphill from there for the Lady Lions who went on an 11-4 run to take the lead 46-45.
Coach Washington acknowledged Edwards' contribution to the end result, adding that she and junior guard Gizelle Studevent added much needed energy on the court.
"The two kids who I think really gave us a boost were Ariel and Gizelle," said coach Washington. "Ariel got us a couple of steals and some rebounds, and a couple of drives. Gizelle came in and hit a couple wide-open jumpers, and they really gave us a boost. When they can come off the bench and they can play with confidence and contribute, we are definitely a much better team. "
The excitement built from there as fans were on their feet, screaming in support of the Lady Lions who continued to dominate with a 19-0 run in the last seven minutes. The defense held their ground, forcing turnovers as MTSU failed to make forward progress on the court. The run allowed Penn State to take the win 65-49.