LSU ousts Penn St. women from NCAA Tournament
BATON ROUGE, La. – LSU had just seven players. But that was enough to send stunned Penn State packing as the Lady Tigers, playing with the support of a boisterous home crowd, came away with a 71-66 second-round NCAA Tournament victory Tuesday night in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
LSU, which became the tournament’s fourth No. 6 seed to oust a No. 3 seed, not only avenged a 90-80 defeat to Penn State in the same situation last year, but also advanced to a Saturday game against Cal in Spokane, Wash. Now the Lady Tigers (22-11) are trying to win twice and play again in Louisiana — the Final Four is 80 miles down Interstate 10 in New Orleans.
Penn State, which finished 26-6, couldn’t match the quickness and tenacity of LSU, especially senior guard Adrienne Webb, who did a magnificent job covering and stifling Maggie Lucas. Lucas, the Big Ten player of the year who averages 20.5 points, scored just nine and only two in the second half. It was the junior guard’s lowest total since scoring nine against South Dakota State on Dec. 16. Lucas hit just 2-of-10 shots, including 1 of 5 from 3-point range.
Webb scored a game-high 29 points, keeping LSU in the game with big shots and big plays on both ends.
“I think they just came out in the second half with a little bit more firepower and, with that, a little more determination,” Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. “Getting offensive boards and good looks, things like that.”
Senior center Nikki Greene led Penn State with 16 points, but none in the final 7:54 after giving the Lady Lions their biggest lead of the second half, 60-55. She also grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds. Senior guard Alex Bentley added 14 points and junior Ariel Edwards scored 13, 10 in the second half.
LSU, without starting junior guard Jeanne Kenney, had only seven players available.
“Seventh heaven,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell offered. “When you think about this team and what they did tonight without Jeanne Kenney, it was just a courageous effort by these seven ladies and coming away with a great win against a very tough Penn State.”
Kenney, LSU’s assists leader and a tough defender, left the Lady Tigers’ first-round victory over Green Bay after being knocked out of the game in a collision with a teammate.
The Lady Tigers built an eight-point first-half lead. Penn State, opening as slowly as it did Sunday in an 85-55 victory over Cal Poly, creeped back into it, going ahead, 42-33, as Lucas’ two free throws with 53.8 seconds to halftime that capped a 15-2 run.
But in the second half, LSU came out strong again, scoring the first 10 points to take the lead, 45-42.
“That was pretty big. We felt they would have a run in the second half,” Washington said, “but we bounced back again and were able to get a five- or six-point lead after that.”
Penn State took its last lead, 66-65, on a 15-footer from the left wing by Edwards, but that the last time the Lady Lions scored.
LSU went ahead for good, 67-66, with 40 seconds left, on a jumper by Lutley Bianca, who backed Lucas halfway into the lane, turned and hit. Before the game ended, Penn State couldn’t buy a bucket and LSU hit 4 of 6 free throws.
“That was a tough play,” Washington said of Lutley’s score. “We needed to be better defensively the last three minutes of the game … We didn’t do that tonight, and down the stretch when they needed a basket, they got a basket.”
Lee Feinswog is a freelance writer.