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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Nebraska coach Connie Yori sought to dispel any lingering doubts when she revealed that she voted for Penn State's Alex Bentley as the preseason Big Ten player of the year.
Unfortunately for Yori, Bentley proved her case after scoring 19 points and spearheading the eighth-ranked Lady Lions' defense in the 80-58 win over the Huskers.
Emily Cady had 17 points and nine rebounds for the Huskers (12-5, 2-2), who shot just 31 percent from the field.
After a choppy start, Penn State pulled away with a 14-4 run over the final 3 minutes of the first half.
Bentley, a scoring point guard, hit a 3 to start the run before finishing it with a heave from just beyond the halfcourt line for an improbable 3 just before the buzzer and a 40-27 lead.
"Their guard play really hurt us tonight. Alex Bentley really is Alex Bentley," Yori told reporters after the game. "I want to make sure this is confirmed on your part, that I voted for her for preseason play of the year."
Nebraska standout guard Lindsey Moore had a frustrating day with 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting, including 1 of 8 from 3-point territory. Her miss on a wide-open layup early in the second half was emblematic of Nebraska's day-long woes.
Bentley corralled the rebound and moved the ball quickly up the floor to Greene, who followed up on her own miss for a 44-27 lead with 18:50 left.
Jordan Hooper finished with 11 points for Nebraska on 5-of-16 shooting. The Huskers were just 5 of 25 (20 percent) from 3-point range, and had 19 turnovers — including 13 off Penn State steals.
"You can't turn those turnovers into transition points," Yori said.
Guard Maggie Lucas had 19 points on 5-of-16 shooting, while Ariel Edwards added 15 of the bench for the Lady Lions (13-2, 3-0), who won their seventh straight.
Penn State didn't let up from there and lead by as much as 26 in the second half against cold-shooting Nebraska.
After starting the game shooting 4 of 8 over the game's opening 4 minutes, Nebraska managed to go just 18 of 62 (29 percent) the rest of way. Penn State converged quickly on shooters and forced several steals off inbounds plays — a specialty for the third member of the Lady Lions' three-guard set, Dara Taylor (seven points, eight assists, three steals).
Penn State struggled early in the halfcourt against the Huskers before turning to its tried-and-true formula of defense and the transition game to take control.
"They have good hands," Yori said. "That's where those steals came from."
The momentum carried over to the frontcourt, especially in the second half. Forward Mia Nickson had eight of her 11 rebounds after halftime, while Nikki Greene (nine points, 10 rebounds) created space with some key buckets down low.
The 6-foot-3 Edwards, the first Lady Lion off bench, gave the Huskers fits all afternoon too with her ability to drive and gets rebounds. She finished 6-of-8 shooting with six rebounds.
The Lady Lions are practically unbeatable when they're scoring in the lane, since Bentley and Lucas together average nearly 32 points a game.
Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP