St. Bonaventure’s Nyla Rueter banked in a 30-footer to end the first half against Penn State on Tuesday.
Her final bankshot was about 29 feet shorter, but hurt the Lady Lions even more.
Rueter scored a game-winning layup with 1.4 seconds remaining as the Bonnies stunned the Lady Lions 56-54 at the Bryce Jordan Center on Tuesday. Penn State (1-3), which blew a nine-point second-half lead, suffered its third consecutive home loss.
Rueter led three Bonnies in double figures with 13 points. Sierra Moore had a career-high 15 for the Lady Lions (1-3), who have lost by a total of eight points to Albany, Seton Hall and St. Bonaventure.
“I think when you talk about the last three games you’re talking about being five or six points away from us being undefeated,” said Penn State coach Coquese Washington, who did not make her players available for comment after the loss. “Again, it’s very early in the season and we’ve got some things we can shore up and we’ve got to get a little bit more consistent play. But, getting consistent play out of really young kids, that’s a tough thing.”
St. Bonaventure (3-2) trailed most of the contest and did not lead by more than three points. The Bonnies, who were 0-10 all-time against the Lady Lions, appeared down for the count after Moore and Jenny DeGraaf each had four points in a 12-1 run that gave Penn State a 49-40 lead with 7:08 remaining.
But from there, the Lady Lions would go scoreless from the field. Penn State’s final five points came from the foul line — where it continues to struggle.
The Bonnies rallied and grabbed the lead on Katie Healy’s drive to the basket with a little more than a minute remaining. Lindsey Spann’s two free throws with 57 seconds left tied the contest and Penn State got the ball back when Kaliyah Mitchell drew an offensive foul on Healy with 37 seconds left.
The Lady Lions worked the ball in to 6-foot-6 center Candice Agee, who missed in the paint with 18 seconds left. The rebound found its way to Rueter who brought the ball up the court. The Lady Lions, who played mostly zone, matched up in a man-to-man defense with DeGraaf on the smaller Rueter. The Bonnies cleared out for Rueter, who drove right around DeGraaf for a layup off the glass.
Penn State called a timeout, but the Lady Lions couldn’t manage more than a 50-foot heave from Spann before the buzzer.
St. Bonaventure coach Jim Crowley said he refrained from stopping the clock to set up a final shot.
“I don’t really like to call timeouts there,” Crowley said. “I think the game gets really overcoached a lot in those situations. I liked where our matchups were and there was so much time there we could evaluate where we were. I thought we had the ball where we wanted in a pretty good matchup and Nyla made a great play. Her teammates did a really good job spacing the floor and understood she was going to take it there. Even if she missed, we’re going to overtime.”
Washington said the contest boiled down to two plays.
“We had a great shot at the end,” Washington said. “Candice had a pretty good shot from point-blank range. It didn’t fall. They get the rebound and go down, cleared out and got a great shot. So, hats off to them for making a play at the end. We had a chance and we didn’t make the play. They had a chance and they made the play. There you have it.”
St. Bonaventure won despite shooting a miserable 22 percent in the first half. Two of those baskets were Reuter’s bank to end the half and a 35-foot heave with the shot clock winding down. Penn State led 24-23 at the break.
“We talked about it at halftime, ‘Let’s run our offense at 30 feet because we shoot it better from there than from inside,’” said Crowley, whose club made 50 percent of its second-half attempts.
The big numbers against Penn State came once again at the foul line. St. Bonaventure made 14 of 22 attempts, while Penn State was 6 of 11. Led by Healy’s 11 rebounds, the smaller Bonnies had a 41-34 edge on the boards.
But the biggest stat may have been fastbreak points. Penn State, which wants to play at breakneck speed, had just three baskets in transition.
“It was really important,” Crowley said of controlling the pace. “The way that Spann and Moore go in transition, they just go and they put so much pressure on you. We play to make people work a little harder on defense to take away transition and hope to make them work a little bit more on offense so it’s tougher to get going. We did a good job of making them work for 15, 20, 25 seconds on defense so they couldn’t burst out as much.”
“We’ve got to play at a faster pace,” Washington said. “We’re working on it. I’m seeing progress in it. Not as fast that I’d like to see, but we’re making progress in that area.”
Spann had 13 points and a career-high five assists. DeGraaf, all in the second half, and Agee each added eight points.
Healy had 12, while point guard Emily Michael played an excellent floor game and scored 11 for St. Bonaventure.
Washington admits it has been difficult finding the right lineup combination.
“It’s tough and we’re still finding our rhythm, our identity and our chemistry on the court,” she said. “As a coach you always want it to come as soon as possible, but that’s a part of the development of this team. We have to find our identity and our rhythm at our pace. Honestly, I think it’s getting a little bit better each game. Even though it’s not necessarily resulting in wins at this point, it will soon.
Penn State gets a chance to end the skid in Atlanta, where it will face Liberty on Friday in the opening round of the Georgia State Thanksgiving Tournament. They will face either Georgia State or Samford on Sunday.
“They’re competitors, so they are disappointed, but they are ready to get back at it,” Washington said of her players. “They are ready to get back in the gym and figure out what things we need to do to get over the hump.”