The Lady Lions rode a 24-6 record and a regular-season Big Ten Championship into their second NCAA tournament in a row. Penn State earned a #4 seed in the Kingston region, and played their first rounds in Baton Rouge, LA.
In the first round of the tourney on Sunday night, PSU beat the 13th seeded Lady Miners of UTEP 85-77 behind sophomore Maggie Lucas' 23 and junior Alex Bentley's 21 points. Both Lucas and Bentley earned first-team all-Big Ten honors this season; in the first round, they were two of four Lady Lions in double digit points, with senior Zhaque Gray and junior Nikki Greene also scoring 15 and 12 points respectively.
UTEP came into the tournament after winning the C-USA automatic bid, winning the regular season of that conference with a 29-3 overall and 15-1 conference record.
With the first round win, Penn State posted back-to-back 25 win seasons since the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons, the latter being the last year they advanced into the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament.
The win against UTEP also set up a meeting Tuesday, against the home team, #5 seeded LSU.
Behind five players with double-digit points, the Lady Lions defeated the Lady Tigers on their home court 90-80. Sophomore Ariel Edwards and junior Mia Nickson joined Lucas, Bentley, and Gray with more than ten points on the night.
LSU came into the game with a 23-10 overall and 10-6 SEC record. They had received votes in the latest AP poll, but were unranked to end the first season under new head coach Nikki Caldwell.
In addition to shooting 45% for the game, PSU held LSU to only 37% shooting and scored 16-11 off of turnovers in the matchup.
The second round win brings the Lady Lions up to 29-22 overall in NCAA tournament games. They now advance to the Regional semifinal in Kingston, RI, versus #1 seed Connecticut, to be played on Sunday, March 25. We'll have more on that match up closer to tip off.
In the meantime, here are some player interviews from after Penn State's first round win from gopsusports.com: