On Sunday against Liberty, that defense let them down once again, as the No. 13 Lady Flames upset No. 4 Penn State 78-70 at the Comcast Center in College Park, Md.
Three-time Big South Player of the Year Katie Feenstra led Liberty with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Penn State likely expected Feenstra, who averages 17.6 points and 10.2 boards per game, to play well inside against Amanda Brown and Ashli Schwab. However, what the Lady Lions couldn't have expected was for Liberty's freshman point guard Allyson Fasnacht to put up a career-high 18 points and not turn the ball over once. Fasnacht came into the game averaging 3.5 points per game.
The two teams played each other close for most of the first 20 minutes. With 4:34 remaining in the first half, Feenstra picked up her second foul and went to the bench. The Lady Lions capitalized by going on an 11-4 run to enter halftime with a 32-27 lead.
The second half was a different story as the Lady Flames outscored Penn State 51-38, including a 16-1 run. Liberty was able to handle the Lady Lions' full-court pressure and converted on several easy baskets after breaking the press. Lady Flames' forward Rima Margeviciute posted 18 points and 12 rebounds to help Liberty offensively. Kristal Tharp added 15 points and five boards.
Penn State only turned the ball over six times and shot 17 for 21 from the free throw line. However, the Lady Lions' offense looked out of sync all game. Feenstra disrupted things inside, and Tanisha Wright and Jess Strom combined to shoot just 10 for 34 for the game and 4 for 18 in the second half. As a team, Penn State shot 37 percent from the field and converted on five of 19 attempts from the arc. The Lady Lions cut Liberty's lead to five points late in the second half, but the Lady Flames made free throws when they needed to (24 for 35 for the game) and never let Penn State get any closer.
For Strom, Wright, Schwab, Jennifer Brenden and Hazel Joseph, the loss marked the end of their Penn State careers. The Lady Lions had made the Sweet 16 in each of the previous three years and hadn't lost in the first round since 2001.
Liberty's victory was the first NCAA tournament win in school history. The game also marked just the fourth time a No. 13 seed has ever beaten a No. 4 seed in tournament history. The Lady Flames will face No. 5 DePaul Tuesday in the second round of the Knoxville Bracket.