Seven was enough to end Penn State’s season.
Sixth-seeded LSU, with just seven players available from its roster, rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit and stunned the No. 3 Lady Lions with a 71-66 victory at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Tuesday.
The Lady Tigers (22-11) advance to the Sweet 16 to face No. 2 California in Spokane, Wash., while Penn State finishes it season 26-6.
“It’s really tough,” said Penn State forward Mia Nickson, one of five Lady Lion seniors on the squad. “We worked really hard to get here. The last four years have been great from where we started to where we are now. “
The Lady Lions were seemingly in control after rallying from an eight-point deficit in the first half, but the Lady Tigers roared back behind the stellar play of guard Adrienne Webb. The senior scored 16 of her game-high 29 points in the second half and held Penn State’s Maggie Lucas to just one basket over the final 20 minutes.
Down to eight players before the tournament, LSU’s Jeanne Kenney was injured in a collision with Webb late in Sunday’s 75-71 win opening-round win over Wisconsin Green Bay.
The Lady Tigers, especially Webb, rallied around their injured teammate and whipped the crowd of 3,055 into a frenzy. Webb was 10-for-16 from the floor and helped hold Lucas to a 2-for-10 evening.
Penn State led 42-35 at the half, but the margin was short-lived thanks to Webb. The guard scored six points in a 10-0 run out of the locker room to give LSU the lead at 45-42. The sloppy Lady Lions turned the ball over on three of their first four possessions.
“That was pretty big,” Penn State coach Washington said of the 10-0 run. “We felt they would have a run in the second half.”
Penn State rebounded thanks to reserve Ariel Edwards, who spent much of the first half on the bench with two fouls. Edwards had six points as Penn State took a 49-48 lead.
Webb again led LSU back in front. Her basket with just under 12 1/2 minutes left gave the Tigers a 55-52 lead.
The Lady Lions responded with an 8-0 run with Nikki Greene scoring six points. Her alley-oop on an inbounds pass with just a second on the shot clock pushed the PSU lead to 60-55 with just under eight minutes left. But, the Lady Lions would make just three more baskets from there.
LSU closed to within two on Bianca Lutley’s 3-pointer and the teams traded body blows down the stretch. Four points from Shanece McKinney sandwiched around a 3-pointer from Webb gave LSU a 65-62 lead with 2:06 remaining.
Edwards returned to the contest and made two big baskets. Her final hoop put Penn State back in front for the last time at 66-65 with 53.9 seconds left.
LSU called timeout and set up a play for Lutley, who posted up and scored over Lucas with 40 seconds remaining.
After a Penn State timeout, Bentley, who had not scored in the second half, missed a short bank shot and Webb ended up with the ball and was fouled with 21.6 left.
Webb’s first free throw rattled around the rim and went through and she swished the second to push the margin to 68-65.
Needing a 3-pointer to tie, Bentley missed a contested shot from the left of the key and Lutley grabbed the board. She made one of two free throws and Penn State threw away the rebound to Webb, who made one of two free throws to close out the scoring.
“Seventh Heaven,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said after the game. “… It was just a courageous effort on these seven young ladies’ part coming up with a great win against a very, very tough Penn State.”
While Penn State struggled offensively over the final eight minutes, Washington thought her team got good shots
“Of more concern was the fact that we did not get stops late in the game,” Washington said. “… I felt like they made a couple of big shots down the stretch and fundamentally we’ve been better than that. We needed to be a little bit better defensively the last three minutes of the ballgame.”
Greene had an outstanding final game. The senior center had 16 points and 16 rebounds in 27 minutes. Bentley had 14, all in the first half, and Edwards added 13. Lucas tied a season-low with nine. After shooting 52 percent (15 of 29) in the first half, the Lady Lions shot 35 percent (12 of 34) in the second half.
Lutley added 18 points for the Lady Tigers.
LSU got off to a hot start, scoring the game’s first five points and getting their crowd revved up. Penn State responded behind seven points from Bentley to get a 9-7 lead, but the Lady Tigers broke a 12-12 tie with a 10-2 run behind five points each from Webb and Lutley.
Webb also was making the first half of the game miserable for Lucas, who did not have a shot attempt the first 12 minutes.
LSU still led 24-16 with just under nine minutes remaining in the half when Penn State kicked into high gear. Led by Greene, Bentley and Lucas the Lady Lions outscored LSU 26-11 to close out the half.
Greene’s layup off a fine feed from Bentley tied the contest at 31-31 with 4:12 left in the half and forced an LSU timeout. After the break, Bentley swiped the ball from Lutley and scored giving Penn State its first lead since the opening minutes.
After a Theresa Plaisance bucket cut the margin to two points, Lucas finally made her first basket, a 3-pointer that triggered a 7-0 run. Lucas had five points and assisted on Gizelle Studevent’s baseline jumper in the run.
Penn State was able to extend its lead with Bentley on the bench. The senior point guard played more than eight minutes after picking up her second foul.