Lady Lions Have Devil of Time

Heading into Saturday's matchup with No. 1 Duke, the atmosphere around the Lady Lion basketball team was filled with more question marks than oxygen molecules. After enduring a 93-67 drubbing, Penn State coach Rene Portland summed it up well.

"We had our moments, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us," Portland said after the game with a smile that smacked of chagrin.

With two freshmen starting at the guard positions, Portland knew her team would have its hands full against the Lady Blue Devils, who boast five returning starters from last year's Elite Eight team. In the end, every player on the Duke roster had scored a bucket. The Blue Devils had four players in double figures along with two others who dropped nine.

The Lady Lions were able to keep the deficit under 10 for a majority of the first half, despite six turnovers by freshman point guard Brianne O'Rourke. They went into the locker room down 43-32, and it would have been closer if they wouldn't have gone 0 for 5 from the free throw line during a crucial stretch of the first half.

The second half was a different game altogether. Duke came out on fire, going on a 20-4 run to start the half. Penn State never recovered and Duke never looked back. Amanda Brown, the Lady Lions' lone returning starter from the 2004 team, was in foul trouble for most of the game. She played only 23 minutes and eventually fouled out with 3:34 left to play after scoring 13 points and grabbing six rebounds.

"It's hard when Amanda Brown's not on the floor," Portland said. "At one point all four freshmen were on the floor tonight, and I think there are some real positives that they will grow from."

Kamella Gissendanner led the Lady Lions with 19 points in her first game since transferring to Penn State and sitting out last season. Duke freshman guard Abby Waner scored 15 points to lead Duke in her first college game. Penn State's freshmen, on the other hand, didn't do quite as well as Waner. O'Rourke ended the game with nine turnovers while Mashea Williams went 3 of 13 from the field and was guilty of forcing ill-advised shots all evening.

"It's a learning experience for me," O'Rourke said after the game. "With as many turnovers as I had, it's just not acceptable, especially with being a point guard. I'm just going to have to learn from it and move on to the next game."

O'Rourke also went 1 of 8 from the field, although she did go 9 of 13 from the free throw line and dished out four assists while going up against Lindsay Harding, a former All-ACC defensive selection.

Duke ended the game shooting 58 percent from the field, while Penn State was an abysmal 30.9 percent for the game, including a 24.3-percent clip in the second half as Duke ran away with the contest.

While Portland's young team was exposed and inexperience reared its ugly head, she knows that the key for her team is to play hard and get better with every game.

"I'll never question their hearts, you know, not this group." Portland, who could be seen stomping her foot in disgust on the sideline throughout the game, said of her team. "The character of my team will be shown at the best tomorrow at 12 o'clock when we head back into practice"


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