Penn State

Lady Lions set for backcourt duel with Gophers

The Penn State Lady Lions face Minnesota at 3p.m. on Sunday. Penn State's Teniya Page drives past Ashley Deary. The Penn State Lady Lions basketball team played Northwestern December 31, 2015.
The Penn State Lady Lions face Minnesota at 3p.m. on Sunday. Penn State's Teniya Page drives past Ashley Deary. The Penn State Lady Lions basketball team played Northwestern December 31, 2015. nmark@centredaily.com

The Penn State women’s basketball team certainly could not complain about the production of its backcourt Thursday.

With Brianna Banks and Teniya Page combining for 52 points, nine rebounds and four steals in a 79-72 win over Northwestern, it was a recipe for victory. Throw in a domination in rebounding, grabbing 19 more boards than the Wildcats, and the Lady Lions found a very good combination to beat a ranked opponent.

Now, can the team repeat that performance on the road?

Penn State (6-6, 1-0 Big Ten) will try to sustain the performance at 3 p.m. Sunday with a visit to Minnesota (8-4, 0-1) at Williams Arena.

While coaches usually prefer to see more balance on the scoresheet — the Wildcats had five women score in double figures in the loss, and the Lady Lions actually have five women averaging in double figures in scoring — what Page and Banks were able to do worked quite well.

And it wasn’t like no one else was producing, just the other Lady Lions were making contributions in other ways.

“One of the things I’ve talked about with them is being aggressive, making an impact on the game,” coach Coquese Washington said. “Certainly moving forward we’re going to work on getting some more production from other people, and the funny thing is, we have. We’ve had games where we’ve had four or five people in double figures.”

While Page and Banks accounted for the bulk of the points, key buckets came from others like Kaliyah Mitchell and Candice Agee, and those two, along with Peyton Whitted, all reached double figures in rebounds.

They will need good scoring production again against the Golden Gophers, who average 76.0 points per game — the Lady Lions average 71.0 per game — and have one of the nation’s top backcourt combinations in Rachel Banham (22.6 ppg) and Carlie Wagner (18.7 ppg).

It should make for a good battle of high-scoring backcourts Sunday.

Banham is second in the Big Ten in scoring, and already is Minnesota’s all-time scoring leader, and is fifth all-time in the conference, with 2,450 career points.

The Lady Lions also will have to put up a good defense against the Gophers’ long-range shooters. The team makes nearly nine 3-pointers per game, which leads the Big Ten and is 16th in the nation, and Banham is already the school’s career 3-pointer record holder with 270.

Penn State enters the game on a modest two-game win streak, and has won 3 of 4, but the opportunity to pick up a conference road win before hosting No. 24 Michigan State in a few days will inject even more confidence.

They already are feeling good after beating Northwestern.

“Nice way to end the year and to begin the year,” Washington said.

Gordon Brunskill: 814-231-4608, @gordoncdt

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