Penn State downs Gophers 81-68

David McCoy

Minnesota’s women’s basketball team went into its game Sunday at Penn State with a goal of containing No. 33 – Big Ten leading scorer Tanisha Wright.

But it ended up being the number 32 that did Minnesota in, costing the Gophers a chance to win for the first time ever at Penn State and earn a share of first place in the Big Ten.

Despite the efforts of Gophers defensive stopper Shannon Bolden, Wright matched her season-high of 32 points, and the Lions made 32 free throws and pulled down 32 rebounds to beat the Gophers 81-68 Sunday in State College, Pa.

“Tanisha Wright did anything she wanted today,” Minnesota coach Pam Borton said. “She had the game of her life. She was really feeling it today, and anything she did, she scored.”

Besides Wright’s 32 points, Penn State’s 32 free throws put the game out of Minnesota’s reach, with 27 of them coming in the second half.

Penn State’s Jess Strom was a perfect 15-of-15 from the line, contributing to the Lions’ 91 percent shooting from the stripe.

“Penn State always shoots a lot of free throws,” said Bolden, who picked up her fourth foul 4:07 into the second half. “Wright and Strom usually get about a quarter of their points from the line. They got a lot of calls going their way, and they were able to knock down their frees.”

The 10th-ranked Gophers (16-4, 6-2 Big Ten) were also out-rebounded for just the third time this season, with Penn State’s 32 boards leading to numerous second and third chances.

“It affected us,” point guard Shannon Schonrock said. “We’d get a great stop on (defense), then we’d come down and get one shot and they’d get the rebound. Then we’d play another 26 seconds of great defense and they’d miss. But then they’d get the offensive rebound and score, and that really hurt us.”

Penn State also converted Minnesota’s 17 turnovers into 23 points, while the Gophers turned the Lions’ 12 giveaways into just four.

Penn State (13-7, 8-1) scored the first five points of the game, holding Minnesota scoreless for the first 2 1/2 minutes before Janel McCarville put down the first two of her 21 points.

After gradually chipping away, the Gophers took their first lead of the game at 15-14 with just more than 6 1/2 minutes left in the half.

The teams went back and forth the rest of the half, with no team scoring more than four unanswered points.

Minnesota’s Kelly Roysland completed an impressive last-second play when April Calhoun threw up a shot from way outside the arc just before the buzzer. Roysland caught it below the hoop and threw it in over her shoulder as time ran out, clipping Penn State’s lead to 28-27 at intermission.

The Gophers took the lead at the outset of the second half, but it ended up nowhere near as close as the first.

Including an 11-0 run that put the score at 48-35 in favor of the Lions, Penn State scored 53 points in the second half, adding to the most points allowed by Minnesota all season.

“I was very disappointed with our defensive effort in the second half,” Borton said. “You’re not going to win too many games when you give up 81 points.”