PSU, Bentley Cruise in Opener

The Lady Lions' stellar point guard focused on scoring in an NCAA win over Dayton at the BJC Saturday.

A nightmare. An NBA-type player. Clutch.

Those were the words Dayton head coach Jim Jabir used to describe Penn State's Alex Bentley after the sophomore point guard propelled the Lady Lions to a 75-66 NCAA first-round victory Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Playing in front of a raucous home crowd, Bentley scored a team-leading 25 points and controlled the tempo of play throughout. With Dayton doing its best to contain Penn State sharpshooter Maggie Lucas, Bentley was forced to play the role of shooting guard, as well, taking a game-high 28 shots; no other Penn State player took more than nine.

“(Bentley) can create her own shots in any situation,” Jabir said following the game. “You can't stop her. She's a great scorer and she caused us nightmares. We knew how good she was coming in but she really played great today.”

Bentley and her Lady Lions were slow coming out of the gate, as Dayton jumped out to an early 16-9 lead. But after fighting back to gain a 22-21 advantage, Penn State scored 18 points in the last five minutes of the first half to take a convincing 42-30 lead at the break.

Dayton did not surrender, though, as it cut Penn State's advantage to just two points with three minutes remaining in the game. Shut down for most of the day, Lucas elevated her game in the contest's final moments, doubling her scoring total by hitting six straight free throws to seal the Lady Lions first NCAA Tournament victory since 2004.

“We knew they would make a run, but we made some pretty big stops down the stretch,” said Penn State coach Coquese Washington. “We were a little too hyped at the start. We were definitely jittery but I knew we'd settle down. Hopefully it will be business as usual when we play Monday night in the second round.”

Having defeated Dayton 112-107 in a double-overtime barnburner to start the season, the Lady Lions knew their defense would be just as important as their offense in determining if they advanced to the round of 32.

“We pressed them a lot at the end of the first half because we wanted them to turn over the ball so we could get the fast break and transition game going,” Washington said.

“We knew it was going to come down to defense since we're both such offensive teams,” Bentley added.

Despite the defensive talk, Bentley and her head coach could not deny that the point guard's knack for taking the big shot put PSU in a position to play for a Sweet 16 birth Monday night at the BJC.

“She certainly does want the ball in pressure situations,” Washington said. “She loves taking the big shot. You can see it as she comes down the court. She wants it again and again and again.“

Bentley admitted she was pleasantly surprised that Dayton gave her so many open looks.

“I didn't expect them to let me take so many shots -- it just worked out that way,” Bentley said. “The rest of the team and I definitely had some butterflies early on but I stayed focused and started hitting my shots as the game went along. It's a really good feeling to get that first win under your belt.”

As for the opponent's head coach saying she could play with the men in the pros, Bentley smiled, laughed, and said, “He's a funny guy. I'm flattered.”

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