Penn State Basketball

Lady Lions beat Northwestern in Big Ten opener

Penn State's Peyton Whitted drives past Christen Johnson. The Penn State Lady Lions basketball team played Northwestern December 31, 2015.
Penn State's Peyton Whitted drives past Christen Johnson. The Penn State Lady Lions basketball team played Northwestern December 31, 2015.

Just seconds after a Northwestern missed shot, Teniya Page dribbled over midcourt with Penn State in transition.

She could have tried to get the ball to a teammate down low, but she was wide open, took the ball to the left wing and leaned into a 3-pointer.

“It was in rhythm,” the freshman guard said. “I was wide open so I wasn’t going to turn it down.”

Hitting nothing but net, it was the dagger the Lady Lion basketball team needed Thursday afternoon.

With sizzling efforts from Page and Brianna Banks, the Penn State women’s basketball team held off No. 14 Northwestern 79-72 in the Big Ten opener at the Bryce Jordan Center.

“Bri and Teniya were feeling it,” coach Coquese Washington said. “They were getting shots in rhythm. The game just seemed to fall their way in terms of shot opportunities and they took advantage of it.”

Page had a game- and career-high 27 points, and Banks added 25 points and three steals for the Lady Lions (6-6).

“I was just trying to be aggressive today, that was kind of my motive,” said Banks, who was one point off her career best. “I feel like that was all of our motives today — just be aggressive and strong. That was like a point of emphasis in practice.”

Peyton Whitted and Candice Agee pulled down 13 rebounds each, and Kaliyah Mitchell grabbed 11 off the glass, which was dominated by Penn State 62-43.

The Wildcats (11-2), who opened the season winning 10 straight, were paced by Nia Coffey’s 20 points before she was called for her fifth foul, Maggie Lyon netted 14 points before fouling out, and the team also got 13 points from Christen Inman, 12 from Ashley Deary and 11 from Lydia Rohde.

It’s not often a team gets five double-digit scorers in a loss.

“Offensively it wasn’t our problem,” Wildcats coach Joe McKeown said. “Our problem was stopping Penn State and keeping them off the foul line.”

Trailing 64-63, Penn State’s decisive run started with a three-point play from Whitted. Seconds later, after a missed 3-point attempt by the Wildcats, Page raced down in transition and knew what had to be done.

“The second I crossed over (midcourt),” Page said of when she decided to take the shot.

Even though there might have been other, higher-percentage options, Washington was just fine with the shot.

“I trust them,” Washington said. “If she felt like that was a good shot for her, I’ll go with her, I’ll support her. It was a shot, if she makes it, it’s great, if she misses it, it probably doesn’t hurt us that much. But I like the confidence that she had to take it.”

Mitchell, who netted eight points, followed with a drive to the basket for a layup, and Page made 1 of 2 free throws to end the 9-0 burst over 1:14 of action.

“They made some tough shots off of screens,” McKeown said. “And in transition hit a big three. I think that was really — we couldn’t come back and match that.”

The Lady Lions then closed the game sinking 7 of 10 free throws.

“Every game, for us anyway, is going to be tough like this,” Washington said. “It’s going to be a grind.”

Penn State led by as much as 13 midway through the third quarter, but Northwestern stormed back on a 17-2 run to close the frame.

The Lady Lions had taken control earlier with a 19-2 outburst over the final minutes of the first quarter into the first 90 seconds of the second.

“We just couldn’t defend late in the fourth quarter, and that was the difference in the game,” McKeown said. “It was really a game of runs that we just broke down defensively at the wrong time.”

Notes: The Lady Lions hit the road for their next game, going to Minnesota on Sunday. ... Deary also posted 10 assists, and Coffey grabbed a dozen rebounds for the Wildcats. ... Northwestern hit 10 of 33 3-pointers. Penn State was 4 for 14, with Page the only successful Lady Lion from long range. ... Penn State was 19 for 31 from the foul line for the game.