Women's basketball: Penn State uses 20-4 run to rally past OSU

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Chris Russell | Dispatch photos
Ameryst Alston of Ohio State prepares for a rebound against Penn State’s Candice Agee, left, and Ariel Edwards in the second half.

The best and most vocal crowd of the season couldn’t help Ohio State stay with the best women’s basketball team in the Big Ten yesterday afternoon at Value City Arena.

Penn State surged — somewhat angrily it seemed — from a 39-28 deficit with 19:10 remaining in the game and drowned the Buckeyes 71-56 beneath a flood of turnovers and offensive rebounds.

The eighth-ranked Lady Lions (17-2, 7-0) began to silence the crowd of 6,802 with a 20-4 run to start the second half. Along the way, they demonstrated why they are in first place in the conference.

The game also showed why the Buckeyes (11-9, 1-6) are tied for last place, one game ahead of the halfway point of the Big Ten season. They already have matched the most conference losses suffered under a Jim Foster-coached team since his arrival in 2002-03.

The turnaround felt more stunning because Ohio State actually staggered Penn State with a 10-0 run to end the first half. A basket by Tayler Hill to start the second gave the Buckeyes the 39-28 lead and the possibility of an upset percolated.

It was then that Penn State turned up its defense and the lead disappeared. The reaction of the Lions to having to dig down that deeply also spoke to their pedigree.

“Our defense in the second half is kind of disappointing because we can play like that the entire game for 40 minutes,” senior guard Alex Bentley said. “But at halftime, coach (Coquese Washington) really got in us. She really challenged us. We knew we had to come out and play our defense. So that’s what we did.”

The Buckeyes looked impressive for much of the first 20 minutes. The team got a boost when senior guard Amber Stokes (sprained left knee) returned from a 41/2-game absence. Hill helped, too, by scoring 18 of her 28 points.

The Lions began to pressure the ball more and to hedge screens to pare Ohio State’s shot clock. Short-seconds situations led to turnovers or rushed shots.

“It was the game plan at first,” Bentley said. “We were just a little hard-headed and didn’t get into it. In the second half, we got into their shorts and we played our defense.”

The Lions used another edge against the Buckeyes. In a 12-second sequence while Ohio State still led 39-31, Penn State grabbed an offensive rebound after a missed free throw and drew another foul. After a second missed free throw, Penn State got another offensive rebound and Maggie Lucas made a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 39-35.

“The foul shooting situation where they picked up five points off of not boxing out on foul shots, that changed the momentum right there,” Foster said. “Boxing out on a foul shot is getting low. It’s a simple thing.”

The Buckeyes never managed to counter the change and never flashed the good offense of the first half. Stokes played 20 minutes but had only four points.

“In the first half again, (we) had much better possessions, much better spacing, they had to work harder,” Foster said. “In the second half, they didn’t.”

Penn State, however, did work harder. Lucas got 14 of her 18 points after the break. Bentley finished with 16 points and Nikki Greene had 11 points and 13 rebounds.

jmassie@dispatch.com

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