Indianapolis Ind. - Penn State's second-half pressure defense overwhelmed Indiana and was the key to the Lady Lions' 79-66 win over the Hoosiers in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse Friday.
Indiana hung tough in the first half behind some hot shooting from Cyndi Valentin and Jenny DeMuth, paired with a solid showing inside from Sarah McKay. The Hoosiers led for the final nine minutes of the first half, until Penn State guard Jess Strom nailed a three-pointer with five seconds remaining to send the Lady Lions into the break with a 36-35 lead.
"I think the attitude going into the second half was that were going to come and get it," DeMuth said. "We were fired up and ready, but we didn't start the second half like we wanted."
Riding the momentum of Strom's shot and spurred mainly by its pressure defense, Penn State roared out of the locker room to the tune of an 18-7 run that opened the lead to 54-42. Playing with breathing room, the Lady Lions held off Indiana for the remainder of the game to seal the win. Penn State forced Indiana to turn the ball over 17 times.
"We knew what they would do," Valentin said of Penn State early in the second half. "They are a pressure team and they like to change their defense around just to throw teams off. I think we could have handled it better."
Valentin finished with a team-high 18 points, with DeMuth adding 17 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots. Big Ten Player of the Year Kelly Mazzante led all scorers with 25 points for Penn State, but it was Tanisha Wright that was biggest factor for the Lady Lions, as she scored 22 points, grabbed six rebounds, dished five assists, had four steals and was a defensive menace all game long.
Sarah McKay scored 12 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had two blocks for the Hoosiers.
"I feel like Sarah was having success and they were just playing her one-on-one," Bennett said. "We needed to find a way to score. We went away from it for a while and we needed to go back to her."