WASHINGTON – The American University women's basketball senior class showed its grit and experience on Wednesday, leading the team to an overtime upset over Penn State, 75-66.
The Eagles will enter conference play with an overall record of 7-4, while the Lady Lions fall to 9-4.
This was the program's first win over Penn State, who entered the mid-week matinee with a 4-0 advantage in the series over the Eagles. Wednesday also marked the second time AU has beaten a Big Ten team, after the Eagles topped Maryland, 57-53, on Dec. 30, 1986. For Gebbia and her staff, this is the second Power Five victory since they came to AU in 2013 - AU beat Oregon, 72-64, during the 2014 South Point Thanksgiving Shootout in Las Vegas.
Seniors Emily Kinneston and Michael Harris led the scoring efforts for AU with 23 points and 10 points, respectively. But it was senior Kate Bond who turned the tide off the bench, putting up back-to-back treys in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to cut the Penn State lead to two before grabbing a steal and a layup in overtime to put AU up by eight.
Sophomore Katie Marenyi also contributed nine points, hitting a three early in the fourth and shooting 6-for-6 from the line in overtime.
Junior Cecily Carl led the team on the boards with five rebounds. Kinneston added a game-high seven assists and three steals to her 23 points, followed by senior Maria Liddane, who had six assists and six points.
Penn State was led by four double-figure efforts, starting with Teniya Page who tallied a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Jaida Travascio-Green added 11 points, followed by Amari Carter and Alisia Smith with 10 each. Smith added the second double-double of the night with another 10 assists.
The Eagles shot 37.7 percent from the floor (23-for-61) while holding Penn State to its second-lowest scoring percentage of the season at 33.3 percent (20-for-60). AU hit a new season-high from the line, hitting 23 of 25 from the charity stripe for 92 percent.
Both teams struggled from the floor during the first quarter, with the Eagles shooting only 20 percent (2-for-10) while Penn State was held to 12.5 percent (2-for-16). But early fouls by the Eagles put Penn State at an advantage, as the Lady Lions shot 6 of 9 from the charity stripe to close the first quarter with a two-point advantage at 10-8.
The Eagles started to find their rhythm in the second quarter, improving to 38.9 percent shooting from the floor (7-for-18), but an early run from Penn State set the pace as the Lady Lions built up to a six-point lead.
AU crept back within two midway through the quarter, but a pair of treys from Penn State's Travascio-Green and Page gave the Lady Lions their largest lead yet of the game at six points. Senior Io Chaney cut that lead back down to six at 30-24 with a minute left in the half, and there the score remained after a couple of late misses by AU.
Penn State continued to build its lead during the third quarter, hitting an early 5-0 run and closing with another 6-0 run to sit at a 10-point advantage heading into the final 10 minutes of regulation.
It was a back-and-forth battle in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, as Penn State pushed to its largest lead of the game with an 11-point advantage with less than five minutes in regulation. But, once again, it was AU which owned the fourth quarter, as the Eagles went on a 20-10 run in the final 10 minutes.
Both teams hit foul trouble midway through the quarter, as Penn State's DeJanae Boykin and Jaylen Williams, and AU's Carl and Lewis, all fouled out within two minutes. Despite having Carl and Lewis on the bench, and with junior Elina Koskimies also in foul trouble with four, the Eagles went on an 11-0 run to draw even at 55-55 by the final buzzer.
Leading the way for that final run was Bond, who entered the game for Carl and hit back-to-back treys. Finally, it was Harris who hit the game-tying point off the free throw line after she was fouled on the drive.
The Eagles continued to control the tempo in overtime, outshooting the Lady Lions 20-11. Kinneston led the way with seven points, starting with a quick jumper to give AU its first lead since the first quarter. A pair of free throws from Carter tied the game back up at 57-57, but Marenyi responded with a pair of free throws of her own to send AU on a 12-2 run to pick up a 10-point lead at 69-59 with 1:22 left on the clock.
Marenyi continued to dominate from the free throw line, picking up another four points to help lead the Eagles on a 6-0 run to gain the largest lead by either team at 14 points (75-61). A pair of free throws and a trey from Page in the final seconds cut that lead back down to nine, but it was too little, too late as AU closed with the 75-66 win.
The Eagles will return home on Friday, Dec. 29, to host their Patriot League-opener against Bucknell at 7 p.m. Tickets for this and all AU basketball home games can be purchased by clicking here.
For the latest on AU Women's Basketball, stay tuned to AUEagles.com and follow the team on Twitter @AU_WBasketball.