Playing a complete game is a tough thing to accomplish in basketball. Doing so in a pressure situation on a national stage makes such a feat even more difficult.
On Tuesday night, No. 3 seed Penn State achieved a complete game against No. 11 seed Florida (20-13) as it won 83-61. From the opening tip, the Lady Lions (24-7) took control of the second-round matchup of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.
“I think it’s probably the most complete we’ve played all season in terms of beginning to the end of the game, the intensity, the focus and executing what we wanted to do,” coach Coquese Washington said. “I’m really proud of the team that they were able to do that in this moment, in this environment.
On both ends of the court, the Lions controlled the tempo and capitalized off of the Gators’ mistakes.
Defensively, Florida shot well at 46.0 percent but turned over the ball 20 times. Penn State responded by scoring 33 points off of those turnovers. Fastbreak points made up the majority of those as the Lions had 19 points in transition.
“I thought everyone was very active defensively,” senior Maggie Lucas said. “Everyone really embraced their role this game of defending hard. I thought everyone down the line did a great job.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Penn State dominated every one of the 40 minutes. Runs were abundant for the Lions throughout the game, most notably in the opening minutes.
Penn State went on a 13-2 run over 4:17 of play to take a substantial lead early in the matchup. In the second half, the blue and white went on another 13-2 run to go ahead 60-36 and take full command.
When the clock was stopped, the Lions still were making an impact in the game as they crushed the Gators from the charity stripe. Penn State hit 13 more free throws than Florida, which hit only 9-of-15.
The complete game for Penn State could not have come at a more perfect time as it heads to the Sweet 16. Over the course of the season, the Lions were consistently growing as the seniors meshed with the freshmen and they established the type of squad they are.
“At the beginning of the year, we didn’t know what this team would be and who we would be and what we would accomplish,” Washington said. “We just kind of said, ‘Let’s strap it up and go for a ride and see how it turns out.’ ”
Heating up this late in the season is key for teams to advance deep into the tournament. With the show the Lions put on Tuesday night, it could be the game Penn State needs that propels the team through the remainder of March Madness.
“The growth that this team has had as a team, the growth that individual players have had, the growth that our seniors have had,” Washington said. “All of those things, the growth, the development, the maturity that has occurred, has allowed us to be where we are.”
Penn State looks to carry its dominating style of play from Tuesday to No. 2 seed Stanford on Sunday in Palo Alto, Calif. The Cardinal are 31-3 on the season and have not shown many weaknesses all year.
The Lions will need to bring the same intensity they had against Florida to the West Coast against Stanford in order to move on to the Elite Eight.
Mike Kilcoyne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org (814) 865-1828. Follow him on Twitter at @mjkilcoyne3.