As the 3-point shot left the hands of junior guard Maggie Lucas with 1:52 to play in the first half, it left more than an imagery arch and three points on the scoreboard.
It ignited a fire in the eyes of the defense.
The shot drew the No. 9 Lady Lions within one point and sparked a 14-0 run, featuring five consecutive Howard turnovers, which took all the momentum out of the Bisons’ sails.
While the team once led by four with 2:18 left in the first half, Howard found itself trailing by eight at half.
“That defense that everyone saw at the end of the first half is our defense, and we have to stay tuned in, and we have to focus up and play that defense for 40 minutes,” senior guard Alex Bentley said after the game.
That defense helped secure a win for the Lady Lions on Sunday. However, that was not the defense that the Lions played most of the 40 minutes, which almost cost them the game.
Howard tallied 61 points in the defeat, with its senior guard Saadia Doyle scoring 36 of them.
“She didn't take a play off,” senior forward Mia Nickson said about Doyle. “What we need to do is play more of a team defense on her instead of just having one player try to shut her down, and usually we will rely on our team to help, and we just did not get that done collectively today.”
The team defense that Nickson talked about might be attributed to why Penn State partially abandoned its man-to-man defense to go zone.
Head coach Coquese Washington said after the game that she tried the switch to contain the ball to no avail.
Yet, no matter what defensive set the team would have ran, it would not have made a difference as Penn State committed 26 fouls sending Howard to the line 29 times.
“We need to play more disciplined,” Lucas said. “We need to finish plays defensively We sent them to the free throw line way too much, and that's not what we do. That's not in our game plan.”
The biggest offenders were senior center Nikki Greene, who committed four fouls and junior guard Ariel Edwards, who fouled out. Both players were taken advantage of Doyle’s aggressiveness while driving to the basket.
Washington said the team unintentionally gave Doyle confidence by sending her to the line 23 times, something the team cannot duplicate against No. 16 Texas A&M Wednesday night.
“We didn't play as well as maybe we wanted to play, but it gives us feedback on things we know we need to get better on,” Washington said. “We've got to turn it around quickly because going into Texas A&M is going to be a big challenge for us.”