BATON ROUGE, La. - The No. 4 seed Penn State Lady Lions (25-6, 13-3) advanced to the NCAA Second Round with a 85- 77victory against No. 13 seed UTEP (29-4, 15-1 C-USA) Sunday evening. This is the second straight year the Lady Lions have advanced to the second round of tournament play. Penn State is now 14-3 in NCAA First Round action and 28-22 overall in tournament play. Penn State is now 2-0 all-time versus the Miners.
Penn State will meet either No.5 seed LSU or No. 12 seed San Diego State on Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m. ET in Baton Rouge.
Four Lady Lions hit double-digits with sophomore Maggie Lucas (Narberth, Pa.) lead the squad with 23. Junior Alex Bentley (Indianapolis, Ind.) was second on the team with 21 points and had a team-best five assists. Senior Zhaque Gray (Chicago, Ill.) totaled 15 points and junior Nikki Greene (Diboll, Texas) totaled 12 points and had a team-leading nine rebounds.
The Miners wasted no time taking the lead to start the game going up by four, 6-2, after less than three minutes. Bentley scored a three to close the gap to one, 6-5, but a layup by UTEP had the Miners leading by three, 8-5. Gray scored for the Lady Lions to bring PSU within one, 8-7, but UTEP continued to maintain control. A jumper and a trey by the Miners gave UTEP its largest lead so far, 13-7, at the 14:29 mark.
Gray nailed a three, but UTEP answered with a jumper to stay ahead by five, 15-10. UTEP's Melisa Mendes fouled Bentley who hit two at the foul line to bring PSU back within three, 15-12. The Lady Lions continued to trail, but never let UTEP's advantage grow to more than five points. With less than 10 minutes to go and UTEP leading 23-18, sophomore Ariel Edwards (Elmont, N.Y.) had a three-pointer bringing Penn State within two, 23-21.
Despite a free throw by UTEP's Jenzel Nash, back-to-back jumpers by Lucas gave Penn State its first lead of the half, 25-24, with 7:29 left to play. A UTEP basket and a successful two-shot trip to the foul line put the Miners back in the lead, 28-25. A layup by Bentley had the Lions within one, 28-27, but two straight three-pointers by UTEP had Penn State trailing by seven, 34-27.
Penn State embarked on a 12-2 run giving the Lady Lions a three-point edge, 39-36, with 2:01 remaining in the half. A free throw from Kristine Vitola of UTEP had the Miners behind by a basket, 39-37. Nash scored on a jumper with 24 second remaining knotting the score at 39-39 to end the half.
The second half was all Penn State as the Lions took off on a 15-6 run for a 53-45 lead. UTEP called a timeout, but it failed to slow the Lady Lions as four points from Bentley and two from Lucas had Penn State up by 14, 59-45, with 12:46 left in the game. After a second Miner timeout, UTEP scored four points off a jumper and a trip to the foul line as the Lady Lions missed two baskets. Penn State held on to a double-digit lead, 59-49.
Bentley got Penn State back on track with a jumper before junior Mia Nickson (Ashburn, Va.) hit both shots at the foul line to move the Lions back ahead by 12, 63-51, with 10:44 to play.
Penn State called a timeout at the 9:22 mark and UTEP went on to score the next seven points to narrow the gap to five, 63-58. Baskets from Bentley and Greene gave Penn State a nine-point cushion, 67-58. During the next three minutes, Penn State made four trips to the foul line tallying seven points to move back ahead by double-digits, 74-63.
UTEP used a 6-2 run to come within seven, 76-69, with 2:21 on the clock. However, two successful shots by Greene at the foul line and three points from junior Marisa Wolfe (Ford City, Pa.) had Penn State ahead by 11, 81-70, with a little more than a minute to play in the game. Lucas made two trips to the free throw line sinking all four shots to have Penn State with an 85-75 lead with 38 seconds remaining. UTEP's Syerra Davis scored one final basket for the Miners before time ran out.
--PSU Athletic Communications--