After freshman guard Niki Reams hit her second free throw to tie the game at 70 with 22 seconds left, all Michigan needed to do was stop Penn State one last time to send the game into overtime. With the clock winding down, Penn State’s Tanisha Wright drove down the lane untouched and layed it in to put the Nittany Lions up 72-70 with 5.7 seconds left.

The Wolverines inbounded the ball to point guard Rachael Carney, who dribbled down the court and passed to Reams – the hot hand on the court – cutting in along the baseline. She put up a close-range shot at the buzzer but couldn’t get it to fall.

“We would have set the same play (had we called a timeout),” Michigan coach Sue Guevara said. “(Reams) was driving on the left side of the basket. It was a great job, but it just didn’t fall.”

The 13th-ranked Nittany Lions (6-1 Big Ten, 16-5 overall) avoided a huge upset at the hands of the Wolverines (2-4, 11-6), who watched a 13-point second half lead evaporate. This was largely due to an eight-minute span in which Michigan failed to hit a single field goal.

In a reversal of the first half, the Nittany Lions began to pound the ball inside, as both Penn State starting forwards combined for 21-of-43 second-half points.

Michigan had been exploiting the post in the first half, when forward Jennifer Smith went 5-for-5 from the floor with 11 points. She failed to score in the second half. A defensive switch by Penn State coach Rene Portland created problems for Michigan’s post players.

“They went into a zone, and we stopped moving on the wings,” Guevara said. “We went eight or nine possessions and we couldn’t buy a basket.”

In addition to a stifling zone defense, the Nittany Lions pressed the Wolverines for the majority of the game. But unlike a month ago – when St. Louis pressed Michigan for 40 minutes and forced numerous turnovers – Carney was the floor general yesterday. She turned the ball over just once, while dishing out five assists. In just her third career start, Carney showed the poise of a senior.

“It seemed they always played one of their girls up on me, and we worked (in practice this week) beating players one-on-one,” said Carney, who finished with career bests in points, assists, 3-pointers and free throws. “I tried to beat my girl down the court to set something up.”

As Carney continued to blow by her defenders, she helped share the wealth on offense. The Wolverines had the most balanced scoring attack of the season, as six of the seven players who saw significant action scored in double figures.

Although the Wolverines were fortunate to have everyone on the court contributing, Penn State only needed key players to make the shots down the stretch. Forward Jessica Brungo finished with 25 points and preseason All-American Kelly Mazzante added 13, despite shooting 6-of-18 from the floor and 0-for-9 from behind the arc.

“I think the key was other people stepping up,” Mazzante said. “Everybody stepped up and made their shots.”

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