January 30, 2011

Lady Lions knock off No. 24 Ohio State

It's been the question for the last month: Should Penn State be ranked, or at the minimum, receive some votes in the polls?

Well the Lady Lions definitely took a big step this week towards getting some of that recognition from the voters, by taking care of business against Illinois on Thursday, then this afternoon defeating No. 24 Ohio State by a comfortable 9-point margin in the BJC.

Penn State 80, (24)Ohio State 71

It was the lady Lions' first victory over the defending Big Ten champion Buckeyes since Dec. 30, 2005, snapping an 11-game losing streak. Penn State, which leads the NCAA hitting 44 percent of its 3-pointers, made 7 of 12 (58%) against Ohio State. Much of the long-range damage was done by Maggie Lucas (6-for-8), who scored all of her 18 points from beyond the arch.

But Lucas was hardly alone at the head of Penn State's prolific offense. Alex Bentley led with 21 points and seven assists. Five Lady Lions finished the game scoring in the double digits, with Nikki Greene pulling down a double-double (12-10) and Mia Nickson coming in one rebound shy of the mark (10-9).

Penn State held a 13-point twice, while pushing a double-digit lead for most of the second half.

Lucas nailed her 80th three-pointer of the season, becoming just the second player in school history to connect on 80 treys in a single season. She joins Kelly Mazzante, who accomplished the feat three times. Earlier this season, Lucas broke Kelly Mazzante's freshman record for 3-pointers (65).

Jantel Lavender led the Buckeyes with 26 points and six rebounds. Tayler Hill added 18 points for Ohio State.

Penn State 67, Illinois 65

Senior Julia Trogele sunk a layup with 9.1 seconds remaining, as Penn State beat Illinois in Champaign. Trogele (19 pts, 11 reb.) and Greene (16 pts, 11 reb.) each recorded double-doubles as the Lady Lions controlled the paint. Bentley (14) and Lucas (10) also broke double-digit scoring against the Illini.

Penn State dominated the boards, outrebounding Illinois, 49-29.

Up Next

The Lady Lions hit the road for a pair of games at Michigan on Thursday, Feb. 3 and at Iowa on Sunday, Feb. 6. Penn State is back in the Bryce Jordan Center to meet Michigan State on Thursday, Feb. 10 at 7 p.m.

For those of you who follow us regularly here, you'll know I've been pointing to the Feb. 10 game against Michigan State as the make-or-break matchup for Penn State's entire season.

Depending on how this week's polls shake out, Penn State will face at least four more ranked opponents in the month of February, two of which--Iowa and Ohio State--are already once-beaten by the Lady Lions this season. Iowa was No. 15 in the Jan. 24 AP Poll, while Michigan State was No. 10.

Feb. '11Opponent / Event Location Time / Result
Thu., Feb. 3 at Michigan *  Ann Arbor, Mich. 7:00 p.m. ET
Sun., Feb. 6 at Iowa *  Iowa City, Iowa 3:00 p.m. ET
Thu., Feb. 10 vs. Michigan State *  University Park, Pa. 7:00 p.m. ET
Sun., Feb. 13 at Indiana *  Bloomington, Ind. 12:30 p.m. ET
Thu., Feb. 17 at Ohio State *  Columbus, Ohio 7:00 p.m. ET
Thu., Feb. 24 vs. Purdue *  University Park, Pa. 7:00 p.m. ET
Sun., Feb. 27 vs. Northwestern *  University Park, Pa.

Purdue could work its way back into the rankings, but the Boilers' Jan. 23 loss at Michigan is a bad one that the voters won't forgive easily. Purdue faces a murderers' row of its own sort the next three games, playing Iowa, Michigan State, then Ohio State.

The Buckeyes were probably going to drop out of the polls this week anyway, due to a loss to Michigan this past Thursday. But like the Boilermakers, don't count out the Buckeyes, who are currently defending five straight conference titles.

What could turnout to be a bigger landmine for Penn State than the Feb. 10 Michigan State game, is that Iowa took down the Spartans on Thursday. Penn State must travel to Iowa City three days before hosting the Spartans, leaving open the chance for a look-ahead situation the Lady Lions must keep under tight control.

There's been a ton of parity in the Big Ten this season, and it's not going to end until there's just one team left standing in Conseco Fieldhouse. Penn State is on the precipice of turning a pretty good season into a really good one, or even a great one.

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