By Alaa Abdeldaiem | @Abdeldaiem_Alaa
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS – Going into the second round of the Big Ten Women’s Tournament, the 11th-seeded Penn State Lady Lions knew what they were going up against as they prepared to face No.6 Purdue. It was a team they had met earlier in the season, one they had established a 16-point lead against before falling 88-78.
They felt Thursday night’s second-round matchup would be different. Penn State wouldn’t give their opponents a shot at second-chance points. They’d cut down on turnovers. They’d stay effective offensively.
At least, that’s what they had hoped.
After going on an 11-0 run to go up 15-4 with 1:54 left in the first quarter, Penn State watched as its double-digit lead against Purdue vanished once again in a 70-59 loss.
Purdue (20-10) advanced to the quarterfinals where it will take on No. 3 Michigan State on Friday at approximately 9 p.m.
The Boilermakers went on an 11-1 run to go up 21-20 with just under three minutes left in the first half, outscoring the Lady Lions 22-10 in the second quarter to take a 28-25 lead at halftime. Seventeen Penn State turnovers resulted in 24 points for Purdue, and the Boilermakers were able to score 11 more with a second look at the basket.
“Coming into the game, I knew it was going to be a tough game,” Penn State head coach Coquese Washington said. “I thought we started off the game pretty well. You knew (Purdue) was going to make a run, and they made their run with second-chance points and capitalized off of our turnovers.”
There was a moment during the game’s fourth quarter when the Lady Lions had a chance to keep it from getting out of hand. The team was down just one with 5:37 left to play, the defense holding its own before Purdue’s April Wilson drove to the basket and completed a three-point play.
Wilson wouldn’t stop there, beating Penn State down the court in transition for another score and widening Purdue’s lead to five.
“I thought that was probably one of the turning points of the game,” Washington said. “We get a turnover, they get a breakaway lay-up. Then we took a quick shot, a long rebound, and they got the rebound and got going in transition. That was a big swing in momentum for them.”
Wilson credits such a turning point in the game to a defense that regrouped for a stout performance in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
“Our offense came from transition plays attacking the basket, and that started from our defense,” Wilson said. “Once we started playing defense, we could rebound and run. My mindset then was just to score, honestly. I got a few steals and some people kicked it ahead to me. But it was just to score. There was noting else going through my mind but score.”
Wilson led the Boilermakers with 22 points, 20 during the second half. Despite a slow start for the senior, Purdue head coach Sharon Versyp knew Wilson would come up big in the second half.
“A lot of the first half, (Penn State) did a great job,” Versyp said. “They didn’t let (Wilson) get a look; they had two people around her. So that’s what I always tell her, that she might only score two or four points in the first half, but she’s allowing everybody else to be successful.
“Then (Wilson) hit one big three, and we just knew she was going to be on. That shot looked beautiful. And when she gets one three-ball going and she’s able to get the steals and finish, she has the confidence to get to the foul line and knock down her free throws. When they went man-to-man, we went to her the whole time.”
Such a performance from Wilson and Penn State’s own lack of offensive production did the Lady Lions in during the game’s final minutes, ending the team’s Big Ten Tournament run earlier than they had hoped.
“I absolutely thought that we gave it our all,” Washington said. “We left everything we had out on the court.”