RIVIERA MAYA, MEXICO - The Penn State Lady Lions used a 5-0 run in the early part of the second half to overcome a four-point halftime deficit to defeat Utah, 70-58, in the first game of the Caribbean Challenge on Thursday.
The Lady Lions moved to 5-0 for the first time since the 1996-97 campaign when they started 7-0. Penn State faces No. 23 Wisconsin-Green Bay (4-0) today at 2:30 p.m.
Sophomore center Nikki Greene was 9-for-10 from the field en route to her third career double-double with a personal-best 24 points and 13 rebounds. She also rejected two Utes shots. Senior Julia Trogele scored all 11 of her points in the second half and pulled in eight rebounds. Sophomore guard Alex Bentley chipped in nine points and team-high four assists, while freshman Maggie Lucas came off of the bench to record eight points, four rebounds and a career-best four steals.
The Lady Lions started off strong by scoring six of the game's first eight points in the first two and a half minutes of the game with buckets by Greene, Marisa Wolfe and Bentley. However, after an exchange of scores, the Utes (2-2) clicked off an 18-3 run to take a 22-11 lead with 11:45 remaining. The lone Penn State score during the Utah run was a 3-pointer by Lucas.
Penn State responded as Greene registered back-to-back layups to cut the deficit to seven (22-15). Following a bucket by Brittany Knighton, Bentley stole the ball and took it the length of a jumper and Zhaque Gray drained a three-pointer in transition to slice the Utah lead to four points (24-20) with eight minutes left in the half.
The Utes stayed on fire from deep with a pair of three-pointers sandwiched around one Greene free throw to push the lead back to 30-21 with 6:36 remaining. Penn State continued to fight and scored eight-straight points to make it a single point at 30-29. The teams exchanged scores the rest of the way until a three-pointer by Rachel Messer with five seconds remaining sent the Utes into the locker room with a 37-33 lead.
After an exchange of scoring opportunities to open the second half, Trogele converted on a layup and Bentley netted a jumper to even the game at 39-39 at the 17:44 mark. The squads swapped points for the next two minutes until Ariel Edwards connected on a 15-footer and Lucas converted on an old-fashioned three-point play in consecutive possessions to give the Lions a 47-42 lead with 15:31 left on the clock.
UTAH (58): Harrison 3-6 2-2 8, Plouffe 3-5 0-0 6, Badon 5-14 4-6 15, Rodrigues 4-9 1-2 10, Messer 4-11 1-2 12, Knighton 1-1 0-2 2, Dunbar 1-2 0-0 2, Rolniak 0-0 3-4 3. Totals - 21-48 11-18 58.
PENN STATE (70): Gray 2-4 0-0 5, Wolfe 1-5 0-0 2, Greene 9-10 6-8 24, Trogele 5-10 1-2 11, Bentley 4-12 1-2 9, Womack 1-2 0-0 2, Edwards 1-7 0-0 2, Nickson 2-3 3-4 7, Studevent 0-0 0-0 0, Lucas 2-6 3-3 8. Totals - 27-59 14-19 70.
Halftime: Utah, 37-33. 3-point goals: Utah 5-17 (Messer 3-7, Rodrigues 1-1, Badon 1-6, Dunbar 0-1, Harrison 0-2); Penn State 2-8 (Gray 1-1, Lucas 1-3, Wolfe 0-1, Trogele 0-1, Edwards 0-2). Rebounds: Utah 19 (Rodrigues 6); Penn State 42 (Greene 13). Assists: Utah 15 (Badon 8); Penn State 13 (Bentley 4).