Feb. 22, 2004
IOWA CITY, IA. — Tanisha Wright scored a game-high and season-best 24 points and 6-foot-6 freshman Reicina Russell grabbed a career-high 17 boards as seventh-ranked Penn State defeated Iowa 70-58 before a season-high 6,756 fans inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday.
The game was the last inside Carver for the three senior captains of the Iowa squad, Kristi Faulkner, Jennie Lillis and Becca McCann, and the first victory inside Carver for the Lady Lions since 2000.
Faulkner led the Hawkeyes with 18 points and junior center Jamie Cavey added 14, while sophomore forward Johanna Solverson had 11.
Missing from the high-scorers list, however, was Penn State standout Kelly Mazzante, who scored 30 points over the Hawkeyes last month at State College. Mazzante went 2-of-12 from the field and 0-of-3 at the line for four points in the matchup.
“Obviously, Kelly does a lot for us, and tonight was one of her tough nights,” Penn State coach Rene Portland said. “This year, the team is more than her. I think Tanisha Wright is someone real difficult to matchup against. I don’t know if there’s a guard that can play her.”
“This team can’t depend on Kelly,” said Wright. “We’ve been saying that for three years now. I think this year we’re at that point now. If she has a bad night, then there are other players who can stand up.”
The win for the Lady Lions (21-4 overall, 13-1 Big Ten) puts them in a two-way contest for first place in the league against fifth-rated Purdue, which Iowa (15-10, 9-5) faces on Wednesday. The Hawkeyes are battling Minnesota, Ohio State and Michigan State for a share of third place in the conference.
“If you would have told me that Kelly Mazzante would have scored four points in 22 minutes and we lose this game by 12, I probably would have doubted you strongly,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “But Tanisha Wright was outstanding. She shot the ball very well. I think more than that, though, their defense really took us out of it. They did to us what we did to Minnesota last Thursday.”
The Lady Lions held the Hawkeyes to 31.7 percent from the field, while making seven steals and four blocks in the game. They also out-rebounded the Hawks 46-39 overall, but 32-24 for defensive rebounds.
“Obviously, when we have a player who has 17 defensive rebounds we didn’t give them too many second opportunities, and they’re a team that thrives on those,” said Portland.
“I just believe that rebounding is an important part of any game,” the talkative Russell said. “You just go hard for the boards — nothing special.”
Rebounding was “crucial” for Penn State’s success according to Wright, who went 10-of-17 from the field and had six rebounds herself.
“If you would have told me that Kelly Mazzante would have scored four points in 22 minutes and we lose this game by 12, I probably would have doubted you strongly. But Tanisha Wright was outstanding. She shot the ball very well. I think more than that, though, their defense really took us out of it. They did to us what we did to Minnesota last Thursday.”
Head Coach Lisa Bluder
“I thought we got our running game going,” she said. “Our posts were getting some good rebounds and kicking it out and not just kicking it out but looking ahead, and that was the point when we could get the ball and advance and keep going.”
The transition game upset the Hawkeyes and Penn State got 24 points off of fast breaks. Iowa could only manage eight.
“They’re an excellent transition team,” Bluder said. “They run the floor very, very well. They have some very good athletes that can come out and run the floor very well. We had to start sending two people back which I don’t like to do because it takes away from your offensive rebounding.
“But any mistake you make, they score off of. Turnover, missed basket, whatever it is, they just do an awesome job of attacking and taking advantage of that. I think they’re probably the best team in the Big Ten in doing that.”
But Iowa wasn’t out the game from the beginning of the matchup that had four ties and six lead changes.
After a 5-0 start by Penn State, Faulkner took control the game with two jumpers and a 3-pointer a quarter of the way through the first half. Iowa maintained the lead until 8:19 in the first when Mazzante and Wright paired for quick transitional layups.
After a free throw battle midway through the half, the Lady Lions mounted a 10-2 run to close the first half with a 33-27 advantage.
“As poorly as we played in the first half,” said Bluder, “I thought we were still in pretty good shape being down only six. I thought we’d shoot the ball a lot better the second half. I guess we shot the ball slightly better, but we didn’t get enough opportunities with the rebounds.”
Iowa managed to get the game to within two on a Faulkner 3-pointer in the first three minutes of the second half, but after four Hawkeye fouls in less than 40 seconds at the halfway point, Penn State launched a 13-4 run. The Lady Lions gained an 18-point lead with about a minute to play.
“You have to give Penn State credit,” said Faulkner, “but we didn’t take advantage of our opportunities.”
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com