By Brian McLaughlin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It has been a goal all season of Penn State head coach Coquese Washington to play the game at a high pace offensively and take advantage of fast break opportunities.
Wednesday night the Lady Lions will take on a team with a similar style of play in the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who love to run the floor and shoot 3-pointers.
"I hope it's a high scoring game, they are a team that likes to get up and down the court," Washington said. "They have four guards that can shoot the ball with tremendous range and can stretch the floor and open up driving lanes."
In a matchup that is likely to feature star guards on either side, both teams will battle for control of the game.
"I am just going to try to stay in the flow of the game, rebound so we can run," point guard Teniya Page said. "We can defend well as well as run so we just have to stay confident and we will stay right with them."
Coach Washington also believes that while shootouts can be fun, those games are won and lost on the defensive end.
"Somebody's got to get stops. So I think the team that gets the most stops has a good chance," Washington said.
While the focus on defense gets ramped up prior to potential high scoring contests, Penn State spends a lot of time working on running its break trying to give a young team more experience.
Guards primarily handle the ball in transition and Penn State has had an advantage quite a bit this year led by Page and Amari Carter. Both can push the ball up the floor and distribute as well as create their own shots.
"When (Amari) has the ball in her hands and is pushing tempo that bodes well for our team," Washington said. "We will talk about both her and Teniya running the floor and ways for them to control the pace."
The two Penn State captains both are very comfortable with the ball in their hands, and use their instincts to make the right reads.
"I have been playing basketball for a long time and I think for a lot of people those reads come naturally," Page said. "It's almost instinctive and we practice up and down a lot so it's almost second hand nature when it comes to making the right decision."
Both Carter and Page average over 15 points-per-game as well as multiple assists per contest. Feeding their teammates on the break is a big aspect of a successful transition game.
"Our bigs are another element running the floor. Everybody has to run," Washington said. "It's all about everybody getting on that horse and running at full speed."
Page is one of the few players on the Lady Lions with a lot of experience as she is now in her third year in the starting lineup as a junior. Penn State does not have on senior on its entire roster, so Page has had to use that experience to lead her team on the court.
"When I have the ball on the break I have to make the right decisions and decide when to run or not." Page said. "As a leader I am usually one of the ones who can feel the flow of the game and adjust our pace during the game."
One of the things Washington wants to work on most only comes with more practice, and that is decision making. The more comfortable the players are, the easier those decisions become.
"It's about chemistry and all about reads when running the break. The more comfortable making those reads the more effective we are, so as long as we keep working at it the more we will improve."
Washington understands moving forward how important playing at the right pace is and how this can give her team an edge. She knows not everyone will want to play quickly against her team, so her players have to be the aggressors.
"You have to be committed and disciplined and not allow the other team to set the tempo or set the pace. There are some games where we are good at that," Washington said. "That's something we've got to get better at. With a young team they have a tendency to want to go out and feel the game out, so we have to try to go out and impact the game right from the beginning."