Lady Lions clinch Big Ten regular season title

February 20, 2012

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In front of a raucous crowd of 5,209 fans, the No. 11/17 Penn State Lady Lions (22-5, 12-3) clinched a share of their first Big Ten title since 2004 with a wire-to-wire win over No. 8/11 Ohio State (23-4, 10-4), 84-66. Among those in attendance to support the Lady Lions were head football coach Bill O'Brien, men's basketball coach Patrick Chambers, women's volleyball coach Russ Rose and Penn State president Rodney Erickson. The Lady Lions had three players record double-doubles, led by junior Nikki Greene's (Diboll, Texas) 25-point, 15-rebound performance.

"We try our best night in and night out to represent Penn State's slogan, Success With Honor," head coach Coquese Washington said as she addressed the crowd at the postgame ceremony. "At this moment, I cannot be prouder to represent Penn State University."

Greene's 25 points are a career high, surpassing the previous mark of 24 set against Utah on Nov. 25, 2010, and the 15 rebounds tie her season high. Joining Greene in a tremendous effort from the post players was junior Mia Nickson (Ashburn, Va.), who registered her third double-double of the season with 18 points and 15 boards. Sophomore Maggie Lucas (Narberth, Pa.) was the third Lady Lion to tally a double-double with 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the first double-double of her career.

All five starters reached double figures for the Lady Lions. Senior Zhaque Gray (Chicago, Ill.) accounted for 12 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Alex Bentley (Indianapolis, Ind.) added 10 points and four assists. The Lady Lions out-rebounded the Buckeyes, 60-32.

With the score knotted at 9-9 less than five minutes in, an 11-2 Lady Lion run sparked by a Nickson layup gave Penn State a 20-11 lead at the 12:35 mark. Ohio State narrowed the gap to five (22-17) with a successful trip to the foul line and a jumper from Kalpana Beach. However, the Lady Lions answered back with six-straight points for a 28-17 lead with 8:46 to play in the first half.

The Buckeyes fired back with a 7-0 run of their own to cut Penn State's lead to only four (28-24). Following a Lady Lion timeout, Penn State embarked on a 13-2 run for a convincing 41-26 advantage with just over two minutes remaining in the half. Greene had eight of Penn State's points during the run, while Gray tallied two and Lucas drained a three.

Ohio State missed their next two shots, but a PSU turnover allowed Samantha Prahalis to nail a jumper. Prahalis went on to foul Lucas who made two free throws to put Penn State back ahead by 15 (43-28). Lucas scored Penn State's final two points of the half with 15 seconds remaining on another two free throws, increasing the Lady Lion lead to 17 (45-28). The Buckeyes sank the final bucket of the half to make it 45-30 in favor of Penn State.

The Lady Lions opened the half with an 8-2 run for a 53-34 lead. The Buckeyes fought Penn State's lead down to 16 (54-38), but back-to-back jumpers had Penn State with the 20-point advantage a little less than six minutes into the second half (58-38).

A Penn State foul allowed a four-point Buckeye run, 58-42, but Penn State scored five of the next seven points to go back up by 20 (63-43) by the 11-minute mark. Ohio State took off on a 6-2 run, but Prahalis fouled Lucas, who sparked a 7-0 Lady Lion run to increase Penn State's lead to 21 (70-49) with 8:06 to play.

The teams traded baskets for almost four minutes with Penn State maintaining at least an 18-point lead. Nickson made two shots at the line to make it 79-59. Ohio State's Darryce Moore also made a trip to the foul line where she hit both baskets, but Greene scored the next three points off a layup and a free throw to give Penn State its 21-point lead back (82-61). Ohio State closed out the game with a 5-2 run, but it was too little too late as the Lady Lions sealed the 84-66 win.

GAME NOTES: The victory over Ohio State gives Penn State their first regular-season title since 2004 when they advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament ... With their win over Ohio State, the Lady Lions clinched the #1 seed in this year's Big Ten Tournament, which also gives them a first round bye ... The Lady Lions are now 32-21 all-time, and 17-6 at home against the Buckeyes ... This is the first time that three Lady Lions have recorded double-doubles in the same game since Brianne O'Rourke, Julia Trogele and Janessa Wolff accomplished the feat against Coppin State on November 29, 2008 ... Nikki Greene notched her second double-double of the season and the ninth of her career finishing with 25 points and 15 rebounds ... Greene recorded a career-high 25 points, topping her previous best of 24 which she scored against Utah on November 25, 2010 ... With her 25 points and 15 rebounds, Greene is the first Lady Lion to reach the 20 points-10 rebounds plateau in a game since Mia Nickson did it on January 23, 2011 vs. Indiana ... Nickson scored her 500th career point as a Lady Lion finishing the game with 18 tallies ... Nickson got her third double-double of the season and career ninth with 18 points and 15 rebounds ... Maggie Lucas recorded her first career double-double finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds ... With her three point field goal, Lucas moved into a tie for seventh with Lisa Shepherd from the 1998-99 season on Penn State's Season three-point field goals made list with 67 ... Lucas' 12 points move her past Nancy Kuhl on the career scoring list lifting her up to 31st place.

Penn State closes out the regular-season with the Pink Zone game versus Minnesota on Sunday, Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. Fans are encouraged to wear pink and $3 from every single-game ticket sold will be donated to the Pink Zone fundraising efforts. There will be a jersey auction post-game for the Lady Lions' game-worn Pink Zone jerseys. Single game tickets and PNC Flex Books are available by calling 800-NITTANY. PNC Flex Books are $99 and give fans 12 vouchers, including one for the Coaches vs. Cancer game and one for the Pink Zone game, which can be redeemed for Nittany Lion and Lady Lion Basketball tickets in any combination.

The 2012 WBCA Pink Zone at Penn State will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26, as the Lady Lions take on Minnesota in the Bryce Jordan Center. Last year, the Lady Lions donated nearly $200,000 for breast cancer causes. This year's fundraising efforts will benefit the Mount Nittany Medical Center, Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital and Lewistown Hospital. For more information on the Pink Zone at Penn State, visit the official Pink Zone website at online. The WBCA Pink Zone at Penn State also is on Facebook at online.

  • After her teammates took turns cutting down pieces of the basketball net, the lone senior on the team, Zhaque Gray, cut down the rest of it and ran across the court waving it for all to see. For more photos, click on the image above.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated February 24, 2012