One basket — a layup the rim finally liked — and a couple free throws were all the Lady Lions could manage in the second quarter.
Four points in 10 minutes isn’t much to live on, and the Lady Lions couldn’t survive.
Penn State, plagued by poor first-half shooting and plenty of frustrating turnovers, fell to Virginia Tech 64-55 in the third round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament on Thursday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.
But Penn State coach Coquese Washington won’t let a discouraging loss dictate how the Lady Lions feel about their season as a whole.
“As disappointing as this loss is right now, if you look at the totality of this season, I’m really proud of how this program has grown,” Washington said. “If we don’t dig ourselves a 20-point deficit, maybe the outcome is different. But I’m really proud of what this team accomplished this year.”
Penn State guard Teniya Page notched a game-high 23 points, while Amari Carter chipped in 10 points. The Hokies had five players in double-digits, led by Chanette Hicks’ 13 points.
The Lady Lions (21-11) finished their season on a sour note after WNIT wins against Ohio and Fordham. Virginia Tech (20-13) advances to face Michigan in the tournament quarterfinals, much to the chagrin of Penn State.
“We learned that it’s hard once it comes to, ‘Win or go home,’” Page said.
The blame can’t be placed on a player or two. Instead, it was a collectively sluggish first half — one that led to a 33-17 halftime deficit for the Lady Lions.
Nothing — not a mid-range jumper by Sierra Moore, drive to the rim by Page, or three-ball by Jaida Travascio-Green — would fall. As a team, Penn State shot 28 percent from the field in the first half, including a 1-for-13 showing in the second quarter.
The only points in the second period for the Lady Lions came on a free throw each by Siyeh Frazier and Ashanti Thomas, followed by a Peyton Whitted back-down bucket.
And when the basket wasn’t disagreeing with Penn State, the Lady Lions gave the ball to Virginia Tech through self-inflicted mistakes. Penn State committed 10 turnovers in the first two quarters.
“It took us a minute to adjust to the physicality of the game,” Page said. “We were making mental errors and weren’t focused on what we had to do.”
All the while, Virginia Tech capitalized. The Hokies, a team that lost 12 of 13 games heading into the WNIT, looked confident, hitting 45.2 percent of their field goals in the first half with six 3-pointers.
Four treys helped Virginia Tech take a 20-13 lead into the second quarter, where the Hokies built on an already-debilitating run. Frazier’s free throw with 2:19 to go in the second quarter broke an 18-0 Hokie run.
“The offense was great, and we’ve proven that we can score, but we hadn’t proved that we could defend,” Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks said. “During that stretch, we forced them to take on tougher opportunities.”
Penn State didn’t go quietly, stringing together a nice 8-0 run in the third quarter that woke up the Bryce Jordan Center crowd and cut Virginia Tech’s lead to single digits.
But a desperation 3-pointer by the Hokies’ Samantha Hill banked home as the third quarter ended, deflating the Lady Lions yet again.
It was a disappointing finish to Penn State’s season, one the Lady Lions wanted to continue all the way to the finals of the WNIT. It was also the final game for seniors Moore, Whitted and Kaliyah Mitchell.
Penn State returns plenty of firepower next season, though — and Washington believes that trio helped them establish a promising future.
“Where this program is today relative to where we were last March, our seniors grew a lot,” the coach said. “They helped from a leadership standpoint to help build the foundation — and make it stronger for the future.”