PSU Women Knock Off Gophers

<P>On a day when Tanisha Wright tied her career-high for points and Jess Strom set school records at the free throw line, Penn State women&#146;s basketball coach Rene Portland said it was reserve guard Jennifer Brenden who really put Minnesota away.

“That was one of the shots I thought really broke their back,” Portland said, referring to a 3-pointer Brenden hit in the midst of an 11-0 second-half run for the Lady Lions.

Brenden contributed eight points and four rebounds off the bench as No. 23 Penn State (13-7, 8-1) beat No. 12 Minnesota (16-2, 6-2) 81-68 Sunday afternoon at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Wright struggled early on as her first basket didn’t come until the 11:30 mark of the first half. From there, however, she carried the Lady Lions offensively, scoring 14 points in the first half and finishing with 32 for the game. The Golden Gophers’ Shannon Bolden had been praised for her ability to shut down some of the conference’s most potent scorers, but foul trouble limited her to just 26 minutes on the floor.

“She did a good job on me in the beginning of the game and had me flustered,” Wright said of Bolden.

Penn State led by just one at halftime, but Wright scored 18 points in the second half as the Lady Lions dominated the final 20 minutes. Second-half surges have become a staple for Penn State this year in many of its big wins.

“I had someone say to me to give my halftime speech before the game starts, and like an idiot, I did it before Northwestern,” Portland said with a laugh, referring to her team’s stunning loss in Evanston Thursday.

Going into the game, Minnesota was allowing 53.1 points per game to its opponents. Wright and Strom alone combined for 51 as the Lady Lions scored the most points of any Golden Gophers’ opponent all year. Strom hit all 15 free throws she attempted, setting a Lady Lions’ record for most foul shots made in a single game. Already the best free-throw shooting team in the conference, Penn State hit 32 of 35 shots from the charity stripe to hold Minnesota off in the second half.

The Lady Lions did a good job of capitalizing on Minnesota’s mistakes, as they turned 17 Golden Gopher turnovers into 23 points. Meanwhile, Minnesota scored just four points on 12 Penn State turnovers.

The Golden Gophers were outrebounding their opponents by 10.4 boards per game going into their matchup with the Lady Lions, but Penn State won the battle on the glass, tallying six more rebounds than Minnesota. The Lady Lions’ bench led the rebounding effort, as Hazel Joseph grabbed five boards in 15 minutes, while Amber Bland and Brenden both pitched in with four boards apiece. Joseph also did what she could to stop Minnesota’s Janel McCarville, who was named to the Wooden Award Midseason Watch List. McCarville ended up with 21 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks and six turnovers.

The win kept Penn State in a first-place tie atop the Big Ten with Ohio State.

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