The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local Sports

November 19, 2012

Lady Lions cruise against Leopards

STATE COLLEGE — Penn State’s 6-foot-4 center Nikki Greene had the ball wide open at the top of the key. It wasn’t her kind of shot, so Greene took a couple awkward dribbles before the ball rolled away after bouncing off her foot.

Coach Coquese Washington could only shake her head and smile, because almost everything else went right Sunday afternoon for the ninth-ranked Lady Lions’ frontcourt.

Guard Maggie Lucas and forward Mia Nickson each scored 12 points, and Penn State dominated the paint to build a big lead in a 75-34 rout of Lafayette.

Lucas added nine rebounds and four steals but hit just 5 of 16 from the field. Still, the Lady Lions (3-0) hardly needed their prolific shooting guard against the overmatched Leopards (1-3).

“Our focus today was putting a body on (opposing players) and getting boards,” Lucas said. “Shots don’t always fall, so you have to find a way to make an impact in our ways.”

Emily Homan had 11 points and six rebounds to lead Lafayette, which shot 19 percent. The Leopards, of the Patriot League, got outmuscled by the more physical Lady Lions.

The Big Ten favorites were in control from the start, leading 14-0 less than 5 minutes into the game.

Lafayette’s hopes were dashed early after its best player,

6-foot-7 center Danielle Fiacco picked up two fouls just more than a minute into the game.

“That certainly put us on our heels offensively,” Lafayette coach Diane Nolan said. “Our whole offensive flow runs through her.”

Fiacco’s foul trouble also opened up the middle even more for Nickson, Greene and the deep corps of Penn State frontcourt reserves that saw significant time. By the time Fiacco returned with 10 minutes left in the half, Lafayatte trailed 26-6 following a layup by Greene.

Fiacco had averaged 11 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks entering Sunday.

“It made it a lot easier for us to get into our offense,” said 6-foot-6 freshman center Candice Agee, who hit her first collegiate field goal and finished with seven points on 3-of-5 shooting in 18 minutes.

Penn State led 42-14 at the half, but Lafayette cut the deficit to as little as 23 following a layup by Homan with 12:57 left.

Otherwise, the final few minutes turned into a glorified pick-up game. The Lady Lions had a breather after grinding out a 63-58 win last week at No. 16 Texas A&M.

All 10 Lady Lions scored Sunday. Greene had a nice afternoon with six points, six rebounds and three blocks before hurting her head during a scrum under her own basket early in the second half.

Greene didn’t return and held an ice pack to her face while watching from the bench. Washington said Greene was fine and could have returned, but was held out as a precaution.

Even an off-day shooting from Lucas didn’t hurt Penn State, and backcourt mate Alex Bentley finished with just eight points.

But the game was won in the paint, where Penn State held a 42-16 advantage. The Lady Lions also outrebounded the Leopards 57-40 and had a 20-2 edge on second-chance points.

The baseline was open, too, where Lady Lions reserve Tori Waldner hit open shots. The 6-foot-5 forward finished with six points and four rebounds in 14 minutes.

Fiacco, who opened the season with consecutive double-doubles, was never a factor after failing to score and missing all 10 shots. She did have seven rebounds.

Washington said Fiacco’s foul trouble opened up more opportunities, “but in the second half when she in the game, we defended her pretty well ... We played our game, and her being on the floor or not being on the floor wasn’t a big impact for us.”

For Penn State, Sunday turned into part-fact finding mission to help determine effective frontcourt combinations off the bench if starters Nickson and Greene get into foul trouble in more pressing games down the road.

Lafayette returns home with three straight defeats in eight days to power-conference foes, starting with losses to Seton Hall and Villanova. But Nolan will take away positives from the tough stretch.

“For us now to regroup and to see the ball being play at this level,” she told reporters, “although you don’t see any positives, we do. Playing faster, getting bumped off cuts – now we know what that’s like.”

 

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