"All of these kids came here with the promise that we'd be in this position, but they had nothing to go on as [I was] a first time head coach. All of these kids come from all over the country - California, Texas, Atlanta, Chicago - and we said `Hey, come to central Pennsylvania and let's win a Big Ten title.'" - Coquese Washington, Feb. 20, 2012.
And that's exactly what they did last night.
Penn State women's basketball is back, proving so in dominant fashion last night against No. 8 Ohio State in the Bryce Jordan Center. In a one-game playoff for the 2011-12 regular season conference title, No. 11 Penn State positively dismantled the Buckeyes from start to finish, 84-66. Three Lady Lions logged double-doubles and all five starters finished the night scoring double digits on the visitors.
With their win over Ohio State, the Lady Lions clinched the #1 seed in this year's Big Ten Tournament, which also gives them a first round bye.
After a competitive start by both teams, Penn State literally took the ball and ran... and ran... and ran. Using an 11-2 run, the Lady Lions led 20-11 seven and a half minute into the game. But by halftime, that lead would steadily grow to 15, as Penn State was up 45-30 at the break.
The Lady Lions broke open their first 20-point lead in just under six minutes into the second half at 58-38. Ohio State would tread water just enough to keep Penn State about 20 points ahead the rest of the game, but it seemed like every time the Buckeyes created an opening, a Lady Lion was there to slam it shut:
A Penn State foul allowed a four-point Buckeye run, 58-42, but Penn State scored five of the next seven points to go back up by 20 (63-43) by the 11-minute mark. Ohio State took off on a 6-2 run, but Prahalis fouled Lucas, who sparked a 7-0 Lady Lion run to increase Penn State's lead to 21 (70-49) with 8:06 to play.
The teams traded baskets for almost four minutes with Penn State maintaining at least an 18-point lead. Nickson made two shots at the line to make it 79-59. Ohio State's Darryce Moore also made a trip to the foul line where she hit both baskets, but Greene scored the next three points off a layup and a free throw to give Penn State its 21-point lead back (82-61). Ohio State closed out the game with a 5-2 run, but it was too little too late as the Lady Lions sealed the 84-66 win.
Junior NIkki Greene set career marks with 25 points and 15 rebounds. That second number proved to be the deciding factor in the team stats. Penn State totally owned the boards last night, nearly doubling up on Ohio State's rebound total, 60-32.The home team also had a ridiculous 29-0 advantage on second-chance points.
Junior Mia Nickson (18/15) and sophomore Maggie Lucas (12/10) joined Greene with their own double-double games. It was Lucas' first of her career, as she is usually making her mark from beyond the 3-point line.
Greene, Nickson and Lucas combined to out-rebound the entire Ohio State team.
Usually when you say a win was "a team effort," it's not quite so literal as what Coquese Washington was able to coax out of her squad last night.
"Across the board, I think we have a lot of players who can put up points," Washington said during the post game press conference. "We strive to be a team that plays smart and whatever's available, we're going to take it. A lot of nights, Maggie Lucas is available and she's able to get shots but tonight, she wasn't and that's okay. To her credit, she doesn't get bothered by it. She just keeps playing and says, 'Ok, well, it's Nikki's night.' Tonight was a night of the post and our guards were very pleased to sit back and watch them go to work."
All five starters reached double figures for the Lady Lions. Senior Zhaque Gray finished with 12 points, five rebounds and five assists, while junior Alex Bentley threw in 10 more points of her own.
The victory over Ohio State gives Penn State their first regular-season title since 2004 when they advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. The Lady Lions are now 32-21 all-time, and 17-6 at home against the Buckeyes.
Stats via GoPSUSports.com