LOS ANGELES -- Nikki Greene came up big when Penn State needed it the most.
The senior Greene scored 21 points and grabbed a career best-tying 20 rebounds Saturday to lead No. 6 Penn State to the Cal State Northridge tournament title, beating the hosts 85-73.Greene made 13 consecutive free throws in 14 attempts, including 11 of 12 in the final 4 minutes, 52 seconds to help the Lady Lions (5-0) overcome a 67-63 deficit.Maggie Lucas scored 14 of her 23 points in the first half to help the Lady Lions overcome a 17-point first-half deficit. Alex Bentley scored 19 points for Penn State.Marta Masoni scored a career-best 22 points for Northridge (3-2), which used a 25-10 run to take a 33-16 lead with 5:52 to play in the first half. Ashlee Guay scored 15 points with eight assists, Camille Mahlknecht had 13 rebounds and Violet Alama scored 11 points for the Matadors.With Lucas scoring early and Greene making free throws late, there was no reason for Penn State coach Coquese Washington to fret about the big early deficit."The thing is, the basketball season is a long season," Washington said, "and you can't get too worried if you get down early because you've got a lot of time left to make adjustments."Some adjustments, however, come in practice.Greene said she likes the aggressiveness of the Celtics' Kevin Garnett and the ability of the Timberwolves' Kevin Love to follow the ball and take it when it looks as if he won't get it.Northridge coach Jason Flowers said she played like another NBA star."We thought her presence seemed similar to Dwight Howard," Flowers said, "but her free throws are way better."When she was a freshman, Greene shot between 30 and 40 percent from the line, so her work in practice has paid off over the years."Coquese challenges me to make 10 free throws in a row before I can leave the gym," she said.Washington said that's now up to 20."It's been important to her," Washington said, "She gets into the gym. We don't have to prod her with a fork. She knows she has to make 25 or 50. She wants to be a good free-throw shooter. It's a luxury to have a post player in there late in the game, and if she gets fouled, she can go to the line and score."Penn State shot 45 percent from the field, but it started the game looking sluggish on offense and defense. It shot 39 percent from the field in the first half while allowing Northridge to drive the lane freely en route to shooting 52 percent.Masoni scored eight of her 10 first-half points in helping the Matadors build a 17-point lead. Mahlknecht had 10 rebounds and Guay had eight assists in the first half.Bentley capped a 9-0 run with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it 41-35 at halftime. The Lady Lions opened the second half with a 10-2 run and took a 45-44 lead.Lucas made a 3-pointer for a 75-72 lead with 3:08 to play. Penn State shot 50 percent from the field in the second half, compared to 32 percent for Northridge."We were not our best the last couple of days," Lucas said. "It's all about grinding them out. Northridge played well. We were able to grind out a win."