By Tom Shively,
GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The stakes were high. The stage was set. The game was hanging in the balance.
As had happened so many times this season, Penn State junior guard Teniya Page found herself with the ball in her hands late in the game with a chance to win it for the Lady Lions.
She wasn't able to complete the play, but had another chance in the closing seconds of overtime with the Lady Lions down one. She put up a contested three, which fell short, as did Penn State's bid to reach the second round of the Women's NIT.
The Lady Lions were quelled by Radford, 63-62, on a night that the Blue and White didn't play its cleanest basketball but still had chances to win late.
Despite coming up just a few inches short, the Lady Lions put themselves in position to earn a victory with a strong third quarter star, spearheaded by Alisia Smith. Smith had six quick points at the beginning of the frame and 11 on the night.
"I took a different approach coming out [after halftime]," Smith said. "In the first half, I didn't play too well but I tried to make up for it in the second half."
Smith was one of three Lady Lions in double figures on a night that no one player emerged as a dominant scorer.
Penn State turned the ball over 21 times, leading to 19 Radford points. The offense rushed itself a tad at times, leading to difficult passes and some hard catches on the offensive end.
"John Wooden had a famous saying: 'Be quick but don't hurry,'" Washington said. "I thought there were times when we hurried rather than playing at a fast pace."
The game did provide opportunity for some valuable playing time for youthful Lady Lions, including freshman Sam Breen, who had four rebounds in six valuable minutes off the bench.
"Sam is someone I think that over the course of the latter half of the season has really improved," Washington said. "Her confidence has really improved so that we're able to put her out there in moments and games like this and have those be productive minutes. Her knowledge of the game has really improved so that she can contribute in doses in games like she did today."
Breen is just one example of this young Penn State team, one with no seniors on the roster. It's games like these, in a postseason atmosphere with high stakes in a down-to-the-wire game, that allow a young team to grow.
"A lot of people who were returning didn't have a lot of experience or a lot of minutes on the floor, myself included. We know what we can do now and we look forward to building on that next year," redshirt sophomore Amari Carter said.
With the book now closed on the season, the Lady Lions can turn their attention to the offseason and 2018-19. It's only a matter of time before this team returns to championship form, and the youthfulness of this team will lead to an aggressive veteran team next year and beyond.
"When I look back at the recent history [three straight Big Ten championships from 2012-14], one thing we had in common with all those teams was senior leadership," Washington said. "One of the things this season does for us is that it gives our juniors an opportunity to understand coming into next year how hard it is to contend and how much work it takes."