Before the fans exploded in cheers, before the buzzer sounded to end the first half and before Alex Bentley let go of the ball at half court, there was one play that summed up the first half — a steal.
With two seconds left in the first half, Bentley stole the ball from Nebraska’s Rachel Theriot to make way for the buzzer-beater shot.
The steal was one of 13 on the day for the Lions and one of nine in the first half. Those steals hampered Nebraska’s play, as 19 of their turnovers were forced.
All game long, an offensive rhythm escaped the grasps of the Huskers.
Coming into the game, Nebraska averaged 69.2 points per game, shot an average of 40 percent from the field and 30.2 percent from beyond the arc.
In Sunday’s game alone, the Lions limited Nebraska to shoot 31.4 percent from the field, 20 percent from 3-point range and score only 58 points.
Those low offensive numbers are credited to Penn State’s shutdown defense on the Huskers’ two leading scores, Jordan Hooper and Lindsay Moore.
Hooper averages 17.9 points per game while Moore averages15.2,but in Sunday’s game, both were held to 11 points.
Additionally, Moore, a 44 percent 3-point shooter, made only one three on eight attempts.
After the game, head coach Coquese Washington said the game plan going in was to use a rotation on the duo and always force tough, contested shots.
While the Huskers struggled on the offensive side of the court, the Lions excelled offensively because of their defense.
“We locked it in on defense and kind of turned our defense into offense and it really sparked us,” redshirt junior Dara Taylor said.
Penn State scored 28 of its 80 points off turnovers, which were mostly created by the backcourt trio of Maggie Lucas, Taylor and Bentley.
The trio collected 11 out of the 13 steals.
Bentley said getting points off turnovers and turning them into fast breaks was one of the focal points of Washington’s game plan. As Bentley put it, “We like to run.”
“They try to execute the defensive schemes and defensive game plan,” Washington said of the trio. “When they are doing that, opportunities just come their way and they do great a job of taking advantage.”
The defense helped propel Penn State to win by a margin of 22 points. The victory is the second in a row where the Lady Lions have beat a Big Ten team by 20 or more points for the first time since the 2004-05 season.
Last Sunday, the team defeated Michigan State by 21 points, holding the Spartans to 29.3 percent shooting.
“Defense can be a constant,” Washington said. “We want to be a great offensive team, obviously, but we don't want to be a team that just relies on outscoring people. We want to shut people down.”