Lady Lions lose to Top 5 team again
UNIVERSITY PARK – For the second time in 17 days, the Penn State women’s basketball team welcomed a top-five opponent to the Bryce Jordan Center.
The outcome was once again the same.
Penn State fell behind by 19 points in the first half, rallied to cut its deficit to nine in the second half but eventually lost to No. 4 Notre Dame 77-67 on Wednesday.
Ariel Edwards had 18 points for the No. 10 Lady Lions (5-2), who lost by 19 points in similar fashion to top-ranked Connecticut on Nov. 17. Dara Taylor added 14 points and Talia East had 12 points and eight rebounds.
Maggie Lucas, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, was held to seven points on 1-of-8 shooting.
Natalie Achonwa had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Notre Dame (7-0), which used a 21-4 run in the first half to pull away.
The game was part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and continued a strong non-conference home schedule for the Lady Lions, who also will play No. 23 Texas A&M later this month.
“It’s a great opportunity to get top-five teams, great competition to come to your home court,” Taylor said. “You wish you could perform better.”
Penn State coach Coquese Washington said she remains patient with her team, which continues to mix-in several new players.
“I’m encouraging our players to be patient and, at the same time, not be satisfied with the way they played,” she said. “We have to execute on both ends of the court. The next time we play a team of this caliber, we’ll be able to compete at a higher level.”
Washington, a former Notre Dame point guard and assistant coach, faced her alma mater for the first time.
“Winning or losing doesn’t matter,” Washington said. “I just had a tremendous experience. I decided to take the advice I give to our players. Embrace the moments when you’re playing a highly-ranked opponent.”
Notre Dame’s offense, which topped 100 points in a win over Duquesne on Sunday, struggled at the start. The Fighting Irish missed 10 of their first 11 shots and Penn State went ahead 13-7 six minutes into the game.
“We really missed some easy shots early in the game,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “Credit their defense. They were physical and made us work to score inside.”
Penn State led 17-15 with 11:27 remaining in the first half when the deciding run started. The Lady Lions went 5 minutes, 23 minutes without a basket from the field and Notre Dame took advantage .
Jewell Loyd’s 3-point play gave the Fighting Irish the lead for good and sparked a run of nine straight points. A pair of baskets from Taya Reimer and a lay-up from Achonwa put Notre Dame ahead 24-17 with nine minutes left in the first half.
After two free throws from Talia East, Notre Dame ran off eight more points, highlighted by Achonwa’s 3-point play that pushed the Fighting Irish’s lead to 13.
Edwards broke Penn State’s drought from the field with a basket that cut the advantage to 11 points, but scores from Kayla McBride and Loyd put the Fighting Irish back up 36-21 with 5:13 left.
Notre Dame built its lead to 19 points before going into halftime with a 42-28 advantage. Penn State shot 32 percent (9-of-28) in the first half.
“They do a good job of pressuring the ball,” Washington said. “There were times when we made some uncharacteristic decisions. They do a good job of making you get to your second, third option on offense.”
Notre Dame’s lead was still 19 points early in the second before Penn State rallied.
Lucas’ first points of the game, a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer, pulled the Lady Lions to within nine points, at 66-57, with 4:42 left. After a lay-up from Achonwa, two free throws from Edwards again made it a nine-point game.
But Penn State missed its next four shots and got no closer the rest of the way.
NOTRE DAME (7-0)
Achonwa 8-15 5-7 21, Allen 0-1 2-2 2, McBride 4-15 4-4 13, Loyd 6-19 4-4 17, Braker 1-4 1-1 3, Reimer 5-10 2-2 12, Cable 0-1 0-0 0, Mabrey 3-7 1-2 9, Wright 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-73 19-22 77.
PENN ST. (5-2)
Taylor 5-15 3-3 14, East 4-5 4-4 12, Edwards 7-12 3-3 18, Lucas 1-8 4-4 7, Waldner 3-6 1-2 7, Agee 0-2 0-0 0, Sevillian 0-0 2-2 2, Harris 0-2 2-2 2, Mitchell 2-4 1-2 5, Whitted 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-54 20-22 67.
Halftime-Notre Dame 42-28. 3-Point Goals-Notre Dame 4-11 (Mabrey 2-5, Loyd 1-2, McBride 1-3, Cable 0-1), Penn St. 3-9 (Taylor 1-2, Lucas 1-2, Edwards 1-4, Mitchell 0-1). Fouled Out-Lucas. Rebounds-Notre Dame 44 (Achonwa, Reimer 10), Penn St. 36 (East 8). Assists-Notre Dame 17 (Braker 5), Penn St. 9 (Taylor 6). Total Fouls-Notre Dame 21, Penn St. 23. A-5,805.