PSU women roll past Nebraska

UNIVERSITY PARK – The Penn State women’s basketball team held a narrow lead against visiting Nebraska in the waning minutes of the first half Sunday at the Bryce Jordan Center.

That’s when coach Coquese Washington said her team locked down on defense. The result was another blowout in Big Ten play.

Alex Bentley and Maggie Lucas each had 19 points, Ariel Edwards added 15 points off the bench, and No. 8 Penn State used a 14-4 run over the final three minutes of the first half to spark an 80-58 victory over Nebraska.

Nikki Greene scored nine points and added 10 rebounds, and Mia Nickson had 11 rebounds for Penn State (13-2, 3-0 Big Ten), which has won 14 straight at home and seven in a row overall.

The Lady Lions, who were coming off a 21-point win at Michigan State, held Nebraska to 31 percent shooting from the field. Penn State forced 19 turnovers, and Bentley and Dara Taylor combined for eight of the team’s 13 steals.

“We can’t turn it over like that,” Nebraska coach Connie Yori said. “We can’t turn it over like that against anybody but, in particular, a team that can turn those turnovers in transition [points]. It’s a credit to them for playing well.”

Emily Cady led Nebraska (12-5, 2-2) with 17 points and nine rebounds. Jordan Hooper and Lindsey Moore, two of the top 10 scorers in the Big Ten, were held to 11 points each and combined to miss 23 of 32 shots.

“If we want to continue to be a team to be reckoned with in this conference, it’s going to come from the defensive end, it’s not going to come from offensive end,” Washington said. “So, we just want to continue to get better defensively. We want to dictate the games on the defensive end of the floor.”

Penn State, which fell behind by five points early in the game, led 26-23 after a lay-up by Nebraska’s Tear’a Laudermill with 3:20 left in the first half.

Washington turned her team’s focus to its defense during a timeout.

“We talked about locking down the last three-and-a-half minutes of the half, just really locking down our defense” Washington said. “I thought we did that. We made them take some tough shots. We were able to rebound and go in transition.”

Bentley’s 3-pointer started the deciding run. Taylor then stole Hooper’s inbound pass and fed the ball to Lucas, who was fouled. Lucas made 1 of 2 free throws but Greene turned an offensive rebound into an easy put-back to give the Lady Lions a nine-point lead.

Edwards’ 3-pointer made it a 12-point game. Penn State led by 10 points when Bentley had a steal off Nebraska’s Rachel Theriot with two seconds left in the first half. Bentley then drilled a shot from just beyond the half-court line, giving Penn State a 40-27 lead.

“We talked about finishing the half strong, and that’s all I was focused on,” Bentley said. “They had a chance to get a score, so obviously we wanted to get a stop. I got the ball and pushed it up and saw the shot clock and threw it.”

Yori said Bentley’s half-court shot was huge.

“We had a chance to cut it to eight or seven,” she said. “It’s not a dagger, but it also gave them a lot of momentum.”

Penn State built its lead from 13 to 26 points just five minutes into the second half and Nebraska got no closer than 18 points the rest of the way.

Notes: Center Candice Agee left the game late in the second half with a sprained ankle. Washington said the freshman would be evaluated today. PSU has recorded back-to-back 20-point victories over Big Ten opponents for the first time since February 2005.

NEBRASKA (12-5): Moore 4-16 2-2 11, Sample 0-3 0-0 0, Cady 5-10 4-4 17, Theriot 4-9 0-0 9, Hooper 5-16 1-2 11, Laudermill 3-9 2-2 8, Williams 1-5 0-0 2, Simon 0-1 0-0 0, Murren 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-70 9-10 58.

PENN ST. (13-2): Taylor 3-6 1-2 7, Bentley 8-17 0-0 19, Nickson 2-4 3-3 7, Lucas 5-16 5-6 19, Greene 4-9 1-3 9, Agee 0-1 0-0 0, East 0-0 0-0 0, Edwards 6-8 2-2 15, Studevent 2-4 0-0 4, Waldner 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 30-66 12-16 80.

Halftime-Penn St. 40-27. 3-Point Goals-Nebraska 5-25 (Cady 3-4, Theriot 1-4, Moore 1-8, Murren 0-1, Hooper 0-4, Laudermill 0-4), Penn St. 8-18 (Lucas 4-7, Bentley 3-8, Edwards 1-1, Taylor 0-2). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Nebraska 45 (Cady, Hooper 9), Penn St. 41 (Nickson 11). Assists-Nebraska 10 (Moore 5), Penn St. 13 (Taylor 8). Total Fouls-Nebraska 13, Penn St. 13. A-6,098.