By Jeff Sattora, GoPSUsports.com
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.- The month of March is a time of win or go home in basketball circles. When a postseason tournament tips off, the pressure rises. Win or lose, with that pressure comes learning experiences and the chance to grow, both for the upcoming games and seasons ahead.
The Penn State Lady Lions were unable to keep momentum going from an 83-57 Big Ten Tournament first round win against Illinois Wednesday night on Thursday, falling to the Michigan Wolverines, 77-48, in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Despite the outcome, there are still positives to take away from the first few days of March.
"For a lot of these kids it's their first Big Ten Tournament and understanding the rigors of it," head coach Coquese Washington said on the week. "Playing back-to-back is tough and just understanding that. That's one of the positives we'll take out of it."
Two Lady Lions playing their first time in the tournament, freshmen Alisia Smith and Kamaria McDaniel, echoed their coach's statements on the takeaways, especially the quick turnaround of games.
"I feel like it was a good experience, playing teams back-to-back. I felt like I got to know more how the game is, playing in this tournament is a really big thing," Smith said.
"Playing against some of the best players in the country and getting that experience and seeing the things we have to work for next year," McDaniel added on what she can take away. "Just being out there, that whole experience was good."
The game against the Wolverines, originally scheduled for a 9 p.m. tip, didn't get rolling until just past 9:45 p.m. due to Indiana and Michigan State going into four overtimes in the previous game. Despite the schedule change, the Lady Lions didn't get out of their normal routine.
"I don't think it changed anything," Washington said on the later start. "We were ready to play, Michigan is just a really good team and they played well and were hitting on all cylinders."
While Michigan was hitting shots, the Lady Lions weren't able to overcome a tough outside shooting first half, going 1-for-9 behind the arc in the first 20 minutes. That one make was a 3-pointer by Teniya Page as the first half ended, bringing the score to 32-20 at the break.
Even with the late bucket, Penn State was not able to bring the game any closer in the final two quarters, bringing their tournament run to a close.
Page came off her Penn State tournament record 38 points in round one with 12 points against the Wolverines, leading Penn State in the scoring column. She was followed by Amari Carter with eight points, and Jaylen Williams and Alisia Smith with seven points apiece.
Looking at a bigger picture outside of the week, the team has seen growth all year long.
"They've grown a ton. Just their understanding of what we need to do and how to execute," Washington said. "The thing we have to work on is just our consistency and that comes with experience, that comes with just being out there and playing."
"The team has grown a lot. Our chemistry together and just playing together, getting a feel for each other's games," McDaniel said. "I feel like we did a great job of that."
"It's encouraging seeing how much we've grown, individually and as a whole," she added. "We've gotten a lot better and seeing how we match up against these teams is great for us to carry on."
Penn State is hoping to have a few more games to play this season, as the squad will await postseason tournament selections in the coming weeks.