PSU rallies from deficit
UNIVERSITY PARK – The Penn State women’s basketball team often practices for the situation it faced Sunday at the Bryce Jordan Center. So, the Lady Lions did not panic when they fell behind by 11 points to upstart Wichita State late in the first half.
As a result, they are moving on in the NCAA tournament.
Maggie Lucas scored 22 points, including eight during a momentum-changing 17-0 run, and Penn State held off Wichita State 62-56 in a first-round match-up. Penn State (23-7), the third seed in the Stanford Regional, will face No. 11 Florida in the second round Tuesday. Florida upset Dayton 83-69 in Sunday’s other game at the BJC.
Ariel Edwards had 17 points, and Talia East added 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Lady Lions, who improved to 16-3 all-time in the first round.
But not before Wichita State tried to make some history.
The Shockers (26-7), who were attempting to become the first 14th seed to win a NCAA tournament game, used a 14-0 run to grab a 20-9 lead with 6 minutes, 39 seconds left in the first half.
It was no big deal to the Lady Lions.
“We work on situations like that, being down and staying calm,” Lucas said. “We’re able to handle that pretty well. We looked to each other. We played together and kept trying to stick our game plan. We figured things would go our way.”
Penn State coach Coquese Washington said her team kept its poise despite its early struggles.
“They played with a lot of confidence,” she said. “We do some of those situations in practice, where we’re down and half to fight to come back. I was confidence they would make the necessary plays to put us in position to get the win.”
The Lady Lions did so thanks to a resounding run that spanned the first 7 minutes of the second half and turned a five-point deficit into a 12-point lead.
Edwards had consecutive lay-ups in the first 47 seconds to start the run of 17 straight points. A 3-point play from Lucas gave Penn State a 32-30 lead and another 3-point play from East made it a five-point game.
Penn State built its lead to 42-30 with 13 minutes left after a jumper from Lucas and a 3-pointer from the senior guard.
In the meantime, the Lady Lions were yielding nothing on defense. Wichita State missed its first 10 shots of the second half and didn’t get on the board until Michaela Dapprich, who had a team-high 19 points, connected on a 3-pointer with 12:18 remaining.
“It was just a game of runs,” Wichita state coach Jody Adams said. “They ran at the beginning of the second half. You saw a game of execution. It went back-and-forth.”
Penn State limited its opponent to less than 30 percent shooting in the second half, a product of a halftime pep talk from Washington.
“She kept telling us to be the aggressors, to be aggressive,” Edwards said. “That’s what we tried to do coming out, dictate the pace of the game, dictate the way the game is being played.”
Still, the Shockers made one final push and twice pulled to within two points late in the game.
Alex Harden’s two free throws with a minute left cut Penn State’s lead to 58-56. But a basket from East, a key offensive rebound from Kaliyah Mitchell and two free throws from Lucas sealed the Lady Lions’ victory.
“We focused 100 percent on Wichita State. We didn’t look forward at all,” Lucas said. “We knew we had to win one game and move on. That was our focus because they were a heck of a team out there. Now, we have another big game coming up.”
WICHITA ST. (26-7): Bonner 3-16 1-2 7, Jacobs 1-1 2-2 4, Harden 5-12 6-6 16, Price 2-4 0-0 4, Mi. Dapprich 5-13 4-4 19, Decker 2-8 0-0 6. Totals 18-54 13-14 56.
PENN ST. (23-7): Taylor 2-11 0-0 4, East 6-9 1-6 13, Edwards 7-14 3-5 17, Lucas 8-18 3-4 22, Waldner 1-2 0-0 2, Agee 0-0 0-0 0, Mitchell 0-2 0-0 0, Whitted 2-3 0-0 4, DeGraaf 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-59 7-15 62.
Halftime-Wichita St. 30-25. 3-Point Goals-Wichita St. 7-23 (Mi. Dapprich 5-10, Decker 2-6, Harden 0-1, Bonner 0-6), Penn St. 3-11 (Lucas 3-8, Edwards 0-1, Taylor 0-2). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Wichita St. 29 (Price 8), Penn St. 46 (East 13). Assists-Wichita St. 10 (Bonner, Decker 3), Penn St. 11 (Taylor 4). Total Fouls-Wichita St. 20, Penn St. 16. A-NA.