February 14, 2011

Lady Lions avoid meltdown against Indiana, hopefully sparking some urgency

Julia Trogele (Photo: PSU)
Penn State nearly face-planted into the hardwood of Assembly Hall, as the Lady Lions trailed the Hoosiers by as many as 16 points. Penn State (21-6,10-3) trailed for 39 minutes and 20 seconds. But taking a one-point lead--their first of the night--with 40 seconds left was all the Lady Lions needed to avoid a huge upset and what could have been an even bigger let-down after failing to rise to the occasion Thursday night in a loss to Michigan State.

With just three regular season games left on the schedule, Penn State is in a position to win or tie for a Big Ten title, or at least hold on for a second-place finish heading into the conference tournament. Of course, the Michigan State game was supposed to be the moment when this team put everything together and prove it's ready for prime-time.

Had Penn State won, it would have been solidly in possession of first place, and been able to go into a defensive position the rest of the way. It's much easier to defend a lead than fight for one. That's now what the Lady Lions must do, and hope Michigan State (22-3,10-2) can drop one of its final games against Northwestern, Illinois, Ohio State and Minnesota. Right now, Ohio State looks like the only true threat.

The Lady Lions' road is a bit tougher. Ohio State (15-9,6-6) on Feb. 17 and Purdue (17-9,7-6) on Feb. 24 remain the two biggest tests, against two of the most confusing and unpredictable teams in the Big Ten this year. They both have the talent to beat anyone in the conference, but have grossly underachieved this season. Penn State did handle the Buckeyes in their first meeting this year, but lost to the Boilermakers in similar yet opposite fashion back in January.

Northwestern (16-10,5-8) was looking pretty good the last time they met Penn State. But recently the Wildcats are mired in a 2-6 stretch, including more than a few blowout losses, a one-point win against Illinois, and one big surprise in upsetting the Buckeyes. I'd like to say the Northwestern game is the easiest of the three left on the schedule, but that wouldn't be a very smart proclamation.

Penn State's loss to Michigan State did hurt, but not enough to lose hope. The lady Lions are still only a half-game out of first place in the Big Ten. Win the final stretch, and Penn State is guaranteed at least a No. 2 seed in the Big Ten tournament. And as long as they don't bow out in the first round, an NCAA bid is very likely. If Michigan State loses a game, then it gets much more comfy for Penn State's situation going into the tournament.

Penn State 80, Indiana 77
Julia Trogele had a solid all-around performance as she was 7-for-8 form the field en route to 15 points, seven rebounds, a career-high 11 assists, four steals and two blocked shots. It was her fifth double-double of the season and the ninth of her career. Freshman guard Maggie Lucas was stellar from long range as she knocked down six three-pointers to finish with 18 points. She also had three rebounds and a steal. Lucas passes former Lady Lion Kelly Mazzante for third place on Penn State's single season three-pointers chart with her 96th triple of the season. She also passed Mazzante for fourth place on the Big Ten's single-season chart.

Sophomore forward Mia Nickson added 12 points, six rebounds and a steal, while sophomore guard Alex Bentley contributed 12 points, eight assists and three steals to round out the double-digit scorers for the Lady Lions. Greene finished with eight points and seven rebounds.
Michigan State 60, Penn State 49
Mia Nickson paced Penn State with 22 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field and 10-for-11 from the free throw line. She also pulled in six rebounds and had a steal. Freshman Maggie Lucas added 15 points, three rebounds, two assists and three steals in the loss. Senior guard/forward Julia Trogele pulled in a game-best 14 rebounds for the Lady Lions.
Next Games

The Lady Lions hit the road for a Big Ten Network game at Ohio State on Thursday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. Penn State is back in the Bryce Jordan Center after a bye date to face Purdue on Thursday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m.

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