UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A 50-foot shot at the halftime buzzer doesn't have to be a knockout punch.
But in Penn State's 80-58 rout of the Nebraska women's basketball team Sunday afternoon, guard Alex Bentley's half-court heave hit the Huskers right on the chin.
It gave the No. 8 Lady Lions a 40-27 lead at the break. They extended it to 26 points five minutes into the second half. And the No. 23 Huskers were left checking their frequently picked pockets and scrambling for rushed, often forced shots.
Penn State forced 19 NU turnovers and scored 28 points off of them. Bentley, the Big Ten's preseason player of the year, had five steals.
“We lost that game primarily because of our turnovers,” coach Connie Yori said on her postgame radio show. “They have 13 steals. They steal it — and that leads to easy baskets ... we knew coming in, this is what Penn State likes to do.
“They like to hound the ball, they're gonna reach, they're gonna try to deflect the ball away from us. And they did. We just didn't do a very good job of handling that.”
Yori said the Huskers (12-5, 2-2 Big Ten) went “blow for blow” with Penn State (13-2, 3-0) for most of the first half, trailing 26-23 with 3:20 left. Nebraska had the game at its preferred pace, too.
The Lady Lions swung the game in their favor with a 14-4 run that began with Bentley's 3-pointer. She finished it by stealing the ball from freshman Rachel Theriot with two seconds left in the half, taking a step, and nailing the 50-footer. The 6,098 at the Bryce Jordan Center roared their approval.
Yori said the shot was not “a backbreaker.”
“But it also gave them a lot of momentum going into half,” she said.
Nebraska did nothing to stop it, missing eight of its first 10 shots in the second half. With WNBA scouts in the audience, stars Lindsey Moore and Jordan Hooper took difficult, contested shots most of the afternoon. They combined to make 9 of 32 shots and scored 22 points. Emily Cady led Nebraska with 17 points. The Huskers made 5 of 25 3-pointers.
Penn State's top duo — Bentley and Maggie Lucas — scored 23 points in the first half. They finished with 19 apiece.
Though the Huskers won the rebounding battle 45-41, they trailed in that category for much of the game, and struggled to match up with Lady Lions frontcourt starters Mia Nickson and Nikki Greene, who finished with 16 points and 21 rebounds. Off the bench, forward Ariel Edwards had 15 points and six rebounds.
Nebraska doesn't play again until Thursday, when it hosts Illinois. The Illini lost to Michigan State 79-75 Sunday.