March 4, 2010

Big Ten Tournament Preview: Lady Lions vs. Minnesota

The Lady Lions haven't had much to celebrate during these last few weeks, pretty much due to their 1-8 finish during Big Ten play. Still, Penn State (16-12, 8-10) has managed to put together a halfway decent campaign, grabbing a No. 6 seed in the Big Ten women's basketball tournament. They will tip off the first round (Big Ten Network, 2:30 p.m. EST) against the No. 11 Minnesota Golden Gophers (13-16, 6-12). Whatever happens this afternoon, nothing should be unexpected.

The Teams

My, how the mighty have fallen. Over the last few seasons, both of these programs have gone from winning 20+ games per year to just being thankful they have the Big Ten Tournament. Surprisingly enough, Penn State and Minnesota women's basketball teams have never met in the postseason. The last two meetings, however, are outings the Lady Lions would like to quickly erase from their memories. Minnesota spoiled Penn State's Big Ten opener with a 56-48 win in Minneapolis. But the second loss might have been more painful, as the Lady Lions held an eight-point lead with a little more than five minutes left. The Gophers won by seven.

All-Big Ten Players

Senior Tyra Grant and freshman Alex Bentley took home Big Ten accolades for their outstanding performances during the 2009-10 season. Grant was named to the All-Big Ten first team for the second consecutive season by both the coaches and media, while Bentley was an All-Big Ten third team selection by the coaches and an honorable mention All-Big Ten choice by the media. Additionally, Bentley was a unanimous pick for the Big Ten All-Freshman team.

The Game

Penn State should win. But looking at how the Lady Lions previously played against Minnesota, combined with their attrocious 1-8 Big Ten finish, it's tough to pick Penn State in this game. Grant is cranking out about 19 points per game, while Bently is the only other player in double-digits, with 11 per game.

But field goals might not matter in this game. Penn State has had a ton of foul trouble over the last few weeks, which was a huge contributor in many of the last eight losses. Minnesota is first in the Big Ten in free throw shooting, about 75 percent per game. Penn State has actually played extremely well on defense this season, finishing second in the Big Ten in field goal defense, holding opponents to only 35 percent. The Gophers are dead last in field goal defense.

If the Lady Lions can control their foul issues, expect a Penn State victory. Otherwise, the Gophers will pull the "upset."

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