Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After falling on the road at Miami (Fla.) on Nov. 29, the Lady Lions needed to find a way to get back on track against Fairleigh Dickinson and with forward Mia Nickson needing the day off to rest a tweaked muscle, head coach Coquese Washington decided to experiment with her starting lineup.
Washington started guards Maggie Lucas, Alex Bentley and Dara Taylor for the first time this season in an effort to bring more speed to her starting lineup.
In Taylor's first career start at Penn State and her first time assuming the role of full time point guard, the three guards combined for 45 of the team's 101 points in their 101-44 win in dominating fashion against the Knights.
By combining Taylor's speed with that of Bentley, the Lady Lion offense is able to push the tempo while having their weapons on the outside and in the paint, something that would be very valuable to have when conference play begins in January.
"I want us to play faster," said Washington. "Dara is certainly the fastest and speediest player on our team. The combination with her and Alex will allow us to play faster and enable us to get some easy baskets."
With the speed of Taylor and Bentley and the duo's ability to open things up in transition, the difference was felt with both players on the floor for the majority of the first half, helping Penn State take a 39 point lead into half time.
"That lineup definitely provides a lot of speed," said Lucas. "We can take huge advantage of that, and I think we do a good job of that."
The blowout win also featured career highs from junior forward Talia East and freshman center Candice Agee. Both players posted career highs, including Agee's eight points and nine rebounds. East tallied 11 points, added three blocks and was one of five Lady Lions to get into double figures.
For the two bigs, having the three guards and three leaders on the floor allowed them to play more aggressive and more aware of where they should be on the court.
"Our guards are always telling us they're looking for us and they want to get us the ball," said Agee. "So it's just being more aggressive and hungry for the ball and getting the touches."
However, the most encouraging statistic for Washington was the decrease in turnovers compared to the high turnovers her team committed against Miami. The biggest determinant in the team's turnover numbers has been their decision-making and by having all three guards on the floor it gives the Lady Lions the ability to play smarter and together.
"I think we are getting better at turnovers," said Washington. "I think playing smarter and playing within ourselves, we did a good job at that today and our turnover numbers were lower because of that."
It was Taylor's 15 point night that sparked the Lady Lions offensively. The biggest thing her head coach took away from her first career start was her limited turnovers - just two in the game - and her ability to spread the floor.
"I was pleased with her turnover numbers," said Washington. "She is making good decisions with the ball and she is a natural passer with great court vision. If you run the floor open, she will get you the ball."
It was a bounce back performance from a turnover standpoint for the Lady Lions, something Taylor thought was important as one of the tougher tests of their early season looms on Thursday against Connecticut.
"I think it was really important (to limit turnovers)," said Taylor. "We had to focus and execute on offense. A big part of that is taking to care of the ball and getting more shot opportunities."