January 7, 2011

Lady Lions rebound nicely at Northwestern, 80-68

Maggie Lucas ripped off 20 points,
hitting 5 of 6 three-pointers.
(Photo: Tom Ruane/Collegian)
Penn State is looking more and more like a real contender to make noise in the Big Ten women's basketball race this season. Sitting now at 13-4(2-1 Big Ten), the Lady Lions are now a half-game out of first place behind Michigan State (14-1, 2-0 Big Ten), a team that Penn State will only face once this season, Feb. 10 in the Bryce Jordan Center.

But before we get ahead of ourselves looking towards a huge one-game playoff for a high seed in the Big Ten tournament (oh, wouldn't that be sweet!), let's recap last night's game, an 80-63 win at Northwestern (12-4, 1-2 Big Ten).

Firing away early and often from long range, Penn State shot a ridiculous 63.6% (7-11) from three-point range. Two Lady Lions--freshman Maggie Lucas and sophomore Alex Bentley--reached the 20-point mark, with 24 and 20 tallies, respectively. Bentley sealed the win with nine free throws in the final 1:39 en route to 24 markers. She also dished out six assists and notched four steals in the win. Lucas was a sizzling 5-for-6 from three-point range and 5-for-6 from the free throw line and finished with 20 tallies. With her five three-pointers, Lucas passes Lisa Shepherd for second place on Penn State's freshman season three-pointers list with 55 this year. She is now within 10 triples of tying Kelly Mazzante's rookie mark.

Penn State reached the 80-point mark for the eighth time this season.

Following a bye date, the Lady Lions return to the Bryce Jordan Center for their only meeting of the season against Minnesota on Thurs., Jan. 13. The Gophers are on a 3-game losing streak, while they also share three opponents with the Lady Lions--Green Bay, Dayton and Iowa. Minnesota lost all three of those games, while Penn State went 2-1.

I've been saying all season that the Big Ten looks down this year. But I'm beginning to turn on my own assessment. The conference is either down, or really deep this year. Michigan State (1st), Penn State (t-2nd), Ohio State (t-6th), Iowa (t-7th) and Northwestern (t-7th) all have records better than .700, while only two teams--Wisconsin (t-2nd) and Illinois (t-6th)--are below .500. Things will become much more clear over the next two or three weeks, as the season comes to a close. But right now, half the Big Ten is in position to make a real run for a title.

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