WBB: Ags fall in the snow to the Nittany Lions

Courtney Walker guarding Maggie Lucas - Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The #24 Ags traveled to snowy State College to take on a #12 Penn State team smarting from a loss at S. Dakota State. After a horrible start, A&M fought back, but couldn't pull off the upset.

No TV and I wasn' t going to pay the BTN to stream, so this game summary is based on Mike Wright's call of the game on the radio plus watching the box score.

I had a bad feeling about this game all week. Penn State did lose Alex Bentley to the WNBA, but the Nittany Lions are a veteran team with 4 seniors and 1 junior in the starting lineup.

  • Maggie Lucas 5'10" Senior G 21.1 ppg
  • Ariel Edwards 6'3" Senior F 14 ppg
  • Dara Taylor 5'8" RS Senior PG 11.6 ppg
  • Tori Waldner 6'5" Junior F/C 5.2 ppg 6.2 rebounds/gm
  • Talia East 6'3" Senior F 6.7 ppg 6.7 rebounds/gm

Penn State brought 6'6" Soph Candice Agee in early and used 6' 3" and 6' 2" Freshmen Alex Harris and Kaliyah Mitchell for 7 and 15 minutes, respectively. Long, veteran, experienced playing zone D is not a good formula for our women to face. Add to that playing on the road, and traveling in cold weather; there was snow outside the Bryce Jordan Center today.

The start of the game was even worse than I feared. The Lions held the Ags scoreless against the 2-3 zone as part of a 12-0 run to start the game. The Ags committed 8 fouls and 8 turnovers until 10:56 in the first half (0/15 shooting) . It could have been worse but the Nittanies were only 4 of 12 by the second media timeout. Jones had to go to the bench with 2 fouls before the Ags scored. Gilbert, Terry, and Ade also had 2 fouls each before the Ags broke the ice with a jumper by Tori Scott.

The Ags then went on a 13-2 run to cut it to 1 at 14-13 at the 7:58 timeout. Then Ags tied it at 15 with Rachel Mitchell contributing. Then Walker gave the Ags their first lead with a 3-ball, and A&M stretched the lead to 8 before the Lions went on an 11-1 run to retake the lead as the first half ended. A&M's 10-35 shooting at halftime included that 0-15 start. The Ags were 2-13 from behind the arc. PSU wasn't much better, shooting 11-30. Despite Penn State's length and the Ags going small during the comeback, A&M outboarded the Nittanies by 29-18. Lucas with 9 points vs 10 for CWalk.

The Ags tied it up on the opening possession, but then Maggie Lucas got hot and gave the Lions a 30-39 lead. The teams fought back and forth and the Ags cut it to 2 twice before PSU stretched the lead each time. Both teams front lines got into foul trouble by the middle of the second half. After Rachel cut the lead to 2 at 50-48 with 5:17 left, our girls got stuck on that 48 while PSU went on a 9-0 run to make it 59-48 with just 2:13 to go. The Walker and Scott got the gap down to 5 with 1:07 left, but that was as close as the Ags would come. Final score: 66-58. Penn State won the rebounding battle for the second half 23-20.

The stars of the game were clearly Maggie Lucas for Penn State and Courtney Walker for the Ags. Lucas scored 17 of her 26 in the second half, which means she was just one point shy of accounting for half of her team's second half points. She exceeded her season average in scoring and FG% and added 4 boards and 2 steals. Her 50% shooting for the game was despite going only 1 of 5 from 3 and getting a shot blocked by Courtney Walker. I'm wondering why Lucas isn't getting more love in the WNBA predictions over at Swish Appeal. Walker score 20 in a losing effort, but was only 7-20 from the field. I had hoped CWalk would add a 3 point shot to her game in the off season, and it looks like she's getting more comfortable from long range, hitting 2-4. Her offensive productivity was more impressive in that she spent most of the game guarding Lucas, although Tori Scott and others tried to slow the Penn State star at different points. Scott had 14 points on 50% shooting (2-6 from 3) in 23 minutes off the bench. Courtney Williams was a board short of a double-double with 11 points and 9 boards.

The box score shows two big problems. Although they pulled down 17 rebounds between them, our starters at the 4 and 5, Karla Gilbert and Achiri Ade went 2-10 from the field and 0-2 from the FT line. Meanwhile our two PGs were 0-7 from the field. Knox did go 4-4 from the FT line. Knox had 7 assists and no turnovers, while Jones had 3 of each.

Although the Ags let a chance for an upset slip away, it's hard for me to be too upset by this loss. The Ags could have folded early but they fought back several times. Despite giving up 26 to Lucas, the Ags held Penn State to below their 76.1 ppg average. That average is inflated by early season blowouts vs. weak opponents, but Penn State only scored 67 in a loss to #4 Notre Dame. So, defense kept A&M in the game. The problem remains finding consistent offense against zones, and Associate Head Coach Kelly Bond talked about how the Ags are still too "robotic" on offense at times.

The Ags return to Reed Arena for an unusual 11AM start on Tuesday vs Nicholls State before jetting off to the Big Apple to play St. Johns in the Maggie Dixon Classic on Dec 22. The Nicholls game is a special promo for area schoolkids, so come early and try to avoid getting hit by a school bus on the way to the game.

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