The Penn State women’s basketball team had all of the momentum going into halftime.
A 6-0 run over the final 1:07 had given the Lady Lions a 35-28 lead at the break against Liberty in the opening round of the Georgia State Thanksgiving Tournament.
But in the opening minutes of the second half, the Flames caught fire and the Lady Lions’ momentum vaporized. Liberty outscored Penn State 27-6 in the the first 7:46 after the break and rolled to an 80-68 triumph.
The loss was Penn State’s fourth straight, its worst skid since a six-game losing streak late in the 2010 season. The Lady Lions (1-4) will face Samford (3-2), which lost 61-56 to host Georgia State, on Sunday at noon in the consolation game.
Simone Brown had a career-high 23 points, including four 3-pointers in the second half, to pace Liberty. The Flames made 6 of 7 3-pointers in the final 20 minutes and outscored Penn State 30-6 from long distance for the game.
Lindsey Spann had a career-high 17 points and Sierra Moore added 14 for the Lady Lions, who have been outscored in the second half in three of their four losses.
Penn State fell behind 5-0 to open the contest, but fought back behind stellar play from Moore to gain the lead by halftime. Moore had 10 points, four rebounds and three assists in the half.
She scored the final four points, including a layup with six seconds left, to give the Lady Lions their seven-point lead at the break. The 35 points was a season-high in the first half for the Lady Lions.
Spann scored the opening basket of the second half to push the lead to 37-28, but the next seven minutes belonged to the Flames (3-2). Brown made a pair of 3-pointers in a 10-0 run to put Liberty ahead 38-37. Kaliyah Mitchell’s basket put Penn State ahead, but it would be for the final time.
Karly Buer’s 3-pointer triggered a 9-0 run. After a Spann basket, Brown and Ellee Rollins nailed 3-pointers in an 8-0 run that pushed the Liberty lead to 55-43.
Penn State made one push. A 3-pointer by Peyton Whitted and Mitchell’s layup in transition cut Liberty’s lead to 59-54 with 8:42 left, but the Lady Lions never got closer.
Liberty methodically increased the lead. A late 9-2 run pushed the margin to 80-64 with 17 seconds left.
Spann reached double figures for the fifth consecutive game, although she was 7 for 21 from the floor. She also had seven turnovers. Mitchell and Tori Waldner, both Georgia natives, added 10 each. Waldner had eight rebounds.
Ashley Rininger and Buer added 13 points apiece for Liberty, which improved to 2-0 all-time against Penn State.