Senior Kaliyah Mitchell said it could not have been a better Senior Day, as she and the other two seniors scored double-digit points as Penn State’s second-half comeback led it past Purdue.
Mitchell, along with fellow seniors Peyton Whitted and Sierra Moore, each rose to the occasion in their second-to-last home game of their careers, scoring 14 of the first 16 points for Penn State in its 79-73 win Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center.
“They came out and they set the tone,” Lady Lions coach Coquese Washington said. “They were aggressive, especially on the boards. They were aggressive in transition. They came out and played with a lot of confidence and a lot of energy. I think that was a good way for us to start the game.”
Whitted was huge offensively with 11 points, five rebounds and two blocks. She scored all of her points in the first half but was in foul trouble during the second half.
The Lady Lions trailed by four going into the second half, but the team made adjustments and started playing more aggressively in the paint.
Mitchell maintained a consistent presence down-low, recording her third double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds. But she was more pleased with getting the win than with the stat sheet.
“The contribution from the whole team was big,” Mitchell said. “We went out there, and we accomplished our goal for the game. You can’t have a better senior night than that.”
Moore was aggressive on offense attacking the rim, as she finished with seven rebounds and 13 points. She especially came up big on the offensive glass; partway through the third quarter, Moore came up with two critical putback layups, including an and-one to give the Lady Lions the lead.
Purdue rallied to retake the lead, but Moore stayed aggressive as she scored the final four points of the quarter from the free-throw line. Moore said focusing on the boards was an emphasis for the Lions in the second half.
“Going into halftime, (Coach) told us that we need to box out and rebound,” Moore said. “In the second half that’s all our team was thinking about — crashing the boards and getting the rebounds and winning the game.”
Sophomore guard Teniya Page was the leading scorer for Penn State with 24 points, 17 coming in the second half.
With three games remaining in the regular season and with the season finale at home, the three seniors reflected on their time at Penn State and what each will miss the most.
“It just always feels like family,” Moore said. “I think all the reasons we came here, we just feel comfortable here and we feel welcomed every time (we’re) here.”
Said Mitchell: “Throughout the four years, I was able to build relationships with my teammates and also people that weren’t inside the gym. It was a lifelong friendship that I know I can honor. At the end of the day, I’m just blessed and thankful to be given this opportunity.”
Washington also reflected on the years the three have been through and how they each have grown on and off the court.
“They’ve been tremendous role models academically,” Washington said. “They represent what we want a true student-athlete to represent, meaning they get after it in the classroom and then they come on the practice court and give their all and give the best they have to give. We’re going to miss their effort and their energy. The growth they’ve had over their four years has been special.”
Penn State will look to extend their winning streak to four as the Lady Lions travel to face Illinois on Tuesday.