Usually a season opening game can bring many things: nervousness, sloppy play and offensive rustiness.
But that was definitely not the case in the season opener between Penn State and Dayton on Friday night at UD Arena.
In an opening night thriller and despite a career-high 32 points from Justine Raterman who led all scorers, the Penn State Lady Lions were able to come out on top 112-107 in double overtime. The combined score of 219 points set an all-time record for the University of Dayton.
"I have to give that credit to the kids, because they all spread it amongst themselves," Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. "They were talking about we want this, we’re going to get this, we are going to finish this out."
Early on, Penn State opened with a 12-3 run to start the game with Alex Bentley scoring 10 of those points in the first 4 minutes of the game. But as the game wore on with Penn State getting into early foul trouble and Dayton’s matchup zone defense, Dayton was able to seize back the momentum and tie the game at 40 going into halftime.
As the second half started, the back and forth battle ensued as neither team would allow the other to pull away for the majority of the second half. But with the game tied at 70, Dayton goes on a 11-3 run started by Patrice Lalor’s(12 points) three pointer and back to back three’s by Raterman and Kristin Daugherty(22 points).
With 1:29 left in regulation and Dayton up by six, Penn State’s Zhaque Gray (27 points) - who was hot from three point line for the game as she shot a staggering 64% - scores six points in the last minute on back to back threes to send the game into overtime.
"I expect every shot that she [Gray] shoots to go in," said Washington. "She’s got such a quick release and she’s got a lot of confidence in her shot."
"I thought we gave up rotations, we were late in our rotations," Dayton coach Jim Jabir said. "I thought we missed some key box outs.
In the first overtime, it was truly a microcosm of regulation play as neither team would wilt. Both teams continued to battle as the lead changed 5 times but neither was able to pull away.
Penn State was able to create some separation and finally take control in the second overtime with Bentley scoring 5 points and finishing with 26 points. Penn State as a team shot nearly 50% from the three point line.
"I think we did a lot of good things tonight but I think defensively is where we need to pick it up," said Raterman. "And I think we need to play with a chip on our shoulder this year, we have a target on our back this year and we have to recognize that and play with that."
Much was talked about before the season about Dayton’s new up-tempo offense and even though they lost, Dayton’s new offense worked well as they should only continue to improve as the season goes along and the players continue to adjust to this new offense.
"I think they’re adjusting well," said Jabir. "I thought that Penn State did get tired in the second half and I felt we got loose for some layups, and some penetrating kicks for some three’s, I think it’s a good way for us to play."
Dayton is coming off a second round appearance in the NCAA tournament last year and even in defeat, this game should help them in the long run for what they need to do in the long run in closing games out.
"Well I think for me individually, we have to be that much more focused," said Daugherty. "Myself and our whole team didn’t execute like we needed to and I think what we can take away, it’s not over until the last buzzer."