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Penn State women’s basketball: Lady Lions fall at Minnesota

Minnesota's Kayla Hirt fights for a rebound with Penn State's Alex Harris, left, and Jenny DeGraaf during the Gophers’ 75-64 win on Wednesday.
Minnesota's Kayla Hirt fights for a rebound with Penn State's Alex Harris, left, and Jenny DeGraaf during the Gophers’ 75-64 win on Wednesday. AP photo

It went from feast to famine in a short period for the Penn State women’s basketball team on Wednesday.

Trailing by five points at halftime, the Lady Lions outscored Minnesota 20-3 the first 7 1/2 minutes of the second half and had control of the game.

But from there, the offense netted just 15 points as the Golden Gophers roared back to snap Penn State’s modest two-game winning streak with a 75-64 triumph at Williams Arena.

Peyton Whitted, with a career-high, and Lindsey Spann both came off the bench to score 16 points to lead Penn State (5-16 overall, 2-8 Big Ten). Candice Agee added 12.

Shae Kelley (18) and Mikayla Bailey (17) led the Gophers in scoring, but center Amanda Zahui B dominated the action. The 6-foot-5 sophomore had a triple-double with 16 points, 13 rebounds and 12 blocks.

The Lady Lions attempted 79 shots, 18 more than the Gophers, but connected on two more (25-23) as they shot 32 percent for the game.

Washington said that Zahui B either blocked or altered several of the misses around the basket.

“It was a combination of things,” Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. “They do a good job of playing of playing zone and she’s a big presence inside. They compact the zone so she’s able to affect shots. A lot of the shots she affected were from her coming from the helpside. She’s one of the better players in our conference, no question.”

Washington said the big difference was two scoring droughts — one in each half and the free throws. Minnesota shot twice as many (24-12) as the Lady Lions and had a 19-11 edge in made foul shots.

“We played well,” Washington said. “We defended well, had a season low in turnovers (11). We got good shots, we just couldn’t get them to go down and Zahui B affected some. The other big thing was the disparity on the foul line.”

The Lady Lions trailed 34-29, but quickly put that deficit behind to start the second half.

Five different players scored in a 12-0 run to start the half. After a Minnesota 3-pointer, Whitted and Agee had four points each as Penn State took a 49-37 lead with 12:27 left.

But the Lady Lions would go scoreless the next four minutes and Minnesota (17-4, 6-3) would take advantage, especially from long distance. Shayne Mullaney, Joanna Hedstrom and Bailey would nail 3-pointers in a 13-0 run that put the Gophers back on top.

The two teams would exchange the lead six times from there. Whitted’s layup with five minutes remaining gave Penn State its final lead at 55-54. Kelley scored to put Minnesota ahead for good and Carlie Wagner followed with the Gophers’ 10th 3-pointer of the game to push the lead to 61-55 with 4:10 left.

Agee scored to cut the margin to four points with 3:36 left, but Penn State would get no closer.

Kelley scored five straight points and the Gophers made 6 of 7 free throws down the stretch to close it out.

The Lady Lions also went cold to end the first half.

Penn State trailed early but led by as many as six points on two occasions in the first half, the final time after Whitted’s layup with 5:28 left.

But the Lady Lions, who shot 28 percent in the half, would make just one field goal from there. They went 2 for 15 from the floor over the final seven minutes.

Minnesota’s Carlie Wagner and Mikayla Bailey had back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game at 27-27 and Wagner’s 3-pointer with 2:52 left gave Minnesota a 30-27 lead.

Two free throws by Kayla Hirt gave the Gophers a 34-29 lead at the break, which was their largest lead in the half.

Minnesota was able to rally despite Zahui B missing the final 7:59 after picking up her second foul. Penn State played the final 7:43 without center Candice Agee, who also picked up her second foul.

Spann (9) and Whitted (6) came off the bench to lead the Lady Lions in scoring in the first half. Shae Kelley and Bailey each had nine for the Gophers, who made five 3-pointers in the half.

Whitted continued her recent solid play. She’s scored 12, 11 and now 16 off the bench in the Lady Lions’ last three games. She also grabbed six rebounds against the Gophers

Tori Waldner added nine points and a team-high nine rebounds. Penn State held a 51-44 edge on the boards.

Wagner added 12 points for the Gophers. Minnesota shot 38 percent (23 of 61) and was 10 of 33 from 3-point range.

Penn State returns to action at noon Sunday against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights defeated the Lady Lions 71-51 earlier this season.

Notes: Penn State is now 27-13 all-time against Minnesota. ... The Lady Lions are 10-10 in Minneapolis. ... Waldner had three blocks and now has 116 for her career. ... Spann added five assists.

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