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Defense the Focus as Lions Head to Northwestern

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions (10-8, 1-4 Big Ten) will play their fourth road game in their first six Big Ten outings when they travel to Evanston for a matchup against Northwestern (15-3, 3-2 Big Ten) on Saturday for an 8:30 p.m. ET tip on ESPNU.


Penn State is in the midst of a rigorous start to the Big Ten slate. In addition to play four of their first six on the road, the Lions will have played four teams with at least 13 wins after Saturday night's game. Two of the games were on the road against No. 3 Maryland and No. 24 Purdue and last Sunday's home clash against No. 4 Michigan State.

The Lions will return home to the BJC on Thursday for a matchup against Wisconsin. For now, though, head coach Patrick Chambers is taking things one game at a time as the Lions look to snap a two-game skid when they take the floor in Welsh-Ryan Arena.

"The first 10 (Big Ten) games, we knew what it was going to be," said Chambers. "We knew it was going to be difficult. There is no doubt. We can't look at it like that. We have to look at it day to day. I think morale is fine."

The staples of a Chambers-led Penn State team have been defense and rebounding. The Lions have historical been near the upper echelon of the Big Ten in both categories during the past five seasons. This year, however, has been a little different to start conference play.

The Lions are ninth in field goal percentage defense and 11th in scoring defense. Coach Chambers circled those stats as indicators of where the team needs to continue evolving as the Big Ten season wears on.

"Defense is a major area (for us right now)," said Chambers. "I thought we would be among the best defensive teams in the Big Ten this year. And right now, that is not the case...That's gotta change. For us to compete at a high level and be in games, we have to get back to our identity of defending and rebounding."

Coach Chambers informed the media on Friday's conference call that the Lions would be without one of their best defenders, Josh Reaves, for at least three weeks due to mono. Reaves missed a game for the first time in his Penn State career on Wednesday at Purdue. In 17 games, he averaged 6.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.3 steals. Without the true freshman on the floor, the Lions lose guy with great speed and athleticism.

"Now, we need guys to step up," Chambers said. "Isaiah Washington is going to get a ton of minutes. Davis (Zemgulis) has got to step up. Julian Moore is going to get more minutes. He's got to step up. We've got to just keep this team moving in the right direction."

The first test without Reaves will come in the form of a Northwestern team that has won 12 of its last 14 games. The Wildcats knocked off Wisconsin, 70-65, on Wednesday foe their third Big Ten win. Northwestern is averaging 76.8 points per game. Sophomore guard Bryant McIntosh leads the Wildcats in scoring at 16.1 points per game.

"They are sharing the ball really well. This is a much better team then they've been in the past," Chambers said. "Chris (Collins) is doing a really good job. That's why they have three wins already. Their defense is one of the best in the league."

Saturday's game will mark the fourth-straight meeting between the two teams that will have taken place in Evanston. The Nittany Lions own a 28-16 all-time edge against Northwestern, which includes a 12-10 mark in games played in Evanston.

"We have to make shots. We've got to have a great road attitude and make shots on the road," said Chambers. "If you are open in the Big Ten, it's a very rare occasion, and you've got to make them with confidence. It's going to be another great challenge."



Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony


Nittany Lions Looking to Build Momentum During Early Schedule

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11612920.jpegBy Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Revenge won't be on the mind of the Penn State Nittany Lions men's volleyball team as they head to Lewis for their match Saturday against the Flyers.

"They knocked us out of the tournament last year, but we knocked them out the year before," said Head Coach Mark Pavlik. "So in that respect, it's a draw."

Already in this early 2016 season, the Penn State team has faced ranked opponents USC (No. 13), UCLA (No. 2) and Loyola (No. 6), three of the top teams in the nation. The first three matches for Penn State have been hard fought contests and the match against Lewis should be no different.

"Every season is obviously different," said Pavlik. "But the guys who have been in this program for a few years now know that this will be a battle, it always is. History doesn't really enter in to my thinking, it wont score us any points."

This entire 2016 season will be a battle for the Penn State team as the Lions are not only once again one of the top programs in the nation, but they also have a little extra pressure on them as they will be the hosts for the 2016 Men's Volleyball Collegiate National Championship.

"I think this group of guys wants to walk out of their own locker room for the last match of the season," said Pavlik. "I think that serves as motivation enough. I believe we are the flagship for Pennsylvania volleyball on the men's side and the community always rally's around us come the end of the season and I expect that to be the case come May as well."

Though each season possesses its own type of adversity, Penn State has already faced some in having to replace star outside hitter Aaron Russell. However, Pavlik has taken a matter of fact approach to the situation saying graduation and losing players like that is all part of the collegiate game.

"I think you're always game planning for something like that in a sense," said Pavlik. "I didn't wake up yesterday and realize suddenly that Aaron was gone. It's tough to see a guy like that go, but you have to game plan and understand what you need to do in terms of recruiting and coaching so that you don't really take any steps back when someone leaves."

Although Russell may be gone, Penn State has some young talent that has already shown itself in these early matches in the form of Jalen Penrose and Chris Nugent. Penrose secured 17 kills in the first two matches of the season and possess the athleticism to be a dynamic player for a few years. Nugent is another solid figure who can play all six rotations effectively and thinks the game extremely well.

"I think Nugent has handled himself very well and has played like a seasoned veteran," said Pavlik. We really like his consistency as a player. I also really like the physicality that we have got from Jalen. He is going to score a lot of points for us and the opponents and that's something we have to address, but I really liked how he has played."

Penn State is set to face its fourth ranked opponent in their fourth game of the season when they take on Lewis. First serve is set for just after 7 p.m. on Saturday as the Nittany Lions look to notch a weekend split following Thursday's 3-0 decision at Loyola. 

Behind the Glass of Penn State Hockey

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11610583.jpegBy Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While the Penn State men's hockey team (13-4-3, 3-1-0 Big Ten) will be taking the ice on Friday against Wisconsin (4-6-8, 1-3-2 Big Ten), there is a team behind the scenes that makes sure no item is missed when it comes to preparing the ice and facilities for game day.

Alan Wiser, a rink supervisor for Pegula Ice Arena and Penn State graduate, spoke about the diligent duties his employees perform the week leading up to home games. He discussed the many details the average hockey fan may not know about, and what it takes to create the home ice advantage for Penn State. 

Wiser stated that all rink staff members on duty during games have thorough checklists they must follow to ensure everything is done efficiently and correctly. The checklist is essentially a manual to game day operations for all the behind the scenes team members that make the magic happen at Pegula.

It begins with ice preparation, and making sure the surface stays around 19 degrees.

"We monitor the temperature of both the community rink and the varsity rink throughout the week as well as during the games," said Wiser. "There's one person whose job it is to just monitor the ice, making sure it stays around the temperature we want."

Wiser said this duty is typically given to an employee from Penn State's Office of the Physical Plant.

When it comes to what fans see on the ice, Wiser explained that some of the lines below the surface are painted, while others are pieces of fabric laid down during the ice building process. The largest logo, the Nittany Lion at center ice, is a hand-painted design.

"That's quite a process," Wiser said of the time it takes to paint the Nittany Lion logo. "If you're ever up here during the summer when we do take the ice out and put it back in, try your best to be here."

The staff melts down the ice once a year, often in the springtime, to allow for maintenance. Pegula hosts several high school graduations and other events that don't require the presence of ice during the maintenance window.

When it does come time for ice to return to the main stage of Pegula, the rink staff knows just how much there needs to be. Something that the typical fan may not know is that the thickness of the ice is based upon the preference of the program skating on it. 

"Between the [end zone faceoff spots], the ice is one and a quarter inch thick," said Wiser. "We like to have at least an inch and a half around the goalie area because that's where you get a lot of activity."

A frequently overlooked aspect of the rink is the color of the boards where it meets the ice. Often, teams choose a color that matches team uniforms.

Originally the Nittany Lions chose gray for the baseboards. However, on a television broadcast, the gray baseboards did not provide a great enough contrast with the black puck.  After further thought, the baseboards were painted a shade of light blue to provide better contrast. During the process of choosing a new color there was one color that was off limits. 

"[Head coach] Guy Gadowsky didn't really want to go with yellow," Wiser joked.

While Wiser oversees the many small details of maintaining Pegula Ice Arena, he credited his hard working staff that helps makes it all happen. Many of the members of rink staff who work game days are students.

Kaila Lessner, a senior science major, is one of the Zamboni drivers on game days.

"I figured skated for a long time," said Lessner. "Then I worked at a rink back home all through high school, so I kind of picked up where I left off. After three months [on rink staff in Greenberg Ice Pavilion] I started driving the Zamboni."

Lessner spoke about how her schedule varies, depending on the day, but spends many hours at the rink during the week and how the staff goes into "game mode" about two hours before puck drop.

"You get to see a behind the scenes look of it all," said Lessner. "On game day I rarely ever go up to the concourse, but when you're down here you don't really see that, but you know why everything is happening, what's happening where, and you get to be a part of stuff other people might not know about."

One item those on the concourse won't be able to see is the "mini Zam," an old shopping cart transformed by rink staff to hold the equipment used on the ice, such as the pegs that hold nets into the ice.

A new aspect to the rink staff's job this season is the addition of a "ride along" seat on one of the Zambonis. The seat allows a child under the age of 12 to sit alongside the Zamboni driver as they cut the ice between periods.

This new viewpoint was introduced during last weekend's home series against Minnesota and Wisner said it received immediate positive feedback. The first ride in the new seat was given to a THON child.

Other duties during the game that staff are responsible for are making sure the ice crew gets on and off the ice during timeouts, that any repairs to nets are attended to, and being prepared in case any panels of glass along the boards shatter or become dislodged.

While having many responsibilities, the rink staff is an essential part of the game day process, setting the stage for the growing program. Their roles may vary widely, but it's all in a day's work at Pegula Ice Arena. 

Penn State hosts Wisconsin Friday at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday at 6 p.m. in Pegula Ice Arena. 

Consistency the Biggest Key for Conaway

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11610478.jpegBy Ryan Hickey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - His style may not be as flashy of a style as some of his teammates, but senior Jordan Conaway has quietly been one of Penn State's most consistent and reliable wrestlers.

Ranked No. 5 at 133, Conaway has posted a 15-2 overall record and an 8-0 mark in duals so far this season. The biggest key for his success has been his consistency, which is something that head coach Cael Sanderson has especially noticed this season.


"I think Jordan [Conaway] has been wrestling well and has been getting more aggressive," said Sanderson. "[Conaway] will just keep getting stronger as the year goes on."

Aside from fundamentals, the Abbottstown, Pa., native believes that his stamina is the difference between himself and his competition. Conaway likes to hustle and keep a high pace, which tires out his opponents and makes him stronger as the match goes on. While conditioning plays a huge role in keeping Conaway energized, he also believes that genes have a small role as well.

"Conditioning wise, the training stuff we do helps. Also, I think I am naturally more gifted with stamina. There are some guys that will do the same workout and they might get tired a little quicker," said Conaway. "I think it has to do a little bit with being gifted."


Contributing to his great stamina is the senior's mental toughness, as well.

"On top of that, it's mindset. Even if you are getting a little tired, you still have to use your hands, still have to move and if you are getting tired, then the other guy should be getting more tired," said Conaway.

"That's something we want to see out of him because he's a guy that doesn't get tired," said Sanderson. "He's a guy that could wrestle for hours, but you just have to push the pace and make sure points are being scored early."

Another huge boost for Conaway has been the competitiveness in the wrestling room. Conaway credits being able to wrestle against some of the best wrestlers in the country in practice is what makes him better. The talent level has allowed the senior to improve quicker than normal and he learned many valuable lessons along the way.

"It's definitely made me a lot better. I guess it would be harder to get good at wrestling with partners that aren't as good," said Conaway. "You can still get better, but it may take a little longer. I think through the time I've been here, I've gotten better quicker being here at this program."

Throughout his four years, the most improved part of Conaway's game has been his top wrestling. The senior credits Penn State and the program that is run by Sanderson on helping him improve in every aspect.

Though he wrestled at 133 earlier in his career, bumping up a weight class from 125 to 133 this season has brought a new set of challenges to the All-American. The Southern Scuffle was a great opportunity for Conaway to not only experience that same intensity level as Nationals, but also allowed the 133-pounder to size up the competition he will see at the end of the season. Even with the change, Conaway is focusing just on himself and his style, which he thinks is the key to being successful.

"It's just a different group of guys. They are still tough matches and just wrestling my pace and the way I need to wrestle," said Conaway. "Hustling makes up for a lot of it. I am more focused on what I want to do and just get into my offense when I wrestle."

With Nationals still a couple months away, it is easy for any wrestler to lose focus and sometimes lose sight of the ultimate goal. Conaway noted how great a job the coaching staff does of keeping the team rested to fight off that grind mentality from creeping in their minds around this time of the year.

"Our coaches, the way they have our training set up, I think they do such a great job of giving us time to recover and of giving us off days, so whenever we need to go hard, we go hard. They do a good job of getting us ready so we fresh every time we wrestle."

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Conaway has his eyes set on Madison Square Garden and believes that as long as he just keeps improving everyday, he will shine on collegiate wrestling's biggest stage.

"I'm looking to be a national champion. This is my last time through the collegiate season, so I just want to be the best I can be," said Conaway.

Kiera Brown Shines as a First-Time Nittany Lion

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11610393.jpegBy Mandy Bell, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK Pa. - A little girl anxiously waits for her dad to finish signing her up for gymnastics lessons. She sees a foam pit and desperately wants to jump in. She tried to wait for her dad to finish, but she could resist no longer.

Six-year-old Kiera Brown took off for the foam pit and fearlessly jumped in as her dad watched from afar. It was then that Brown and her family knew she was destined to be a gymnast.


With her mom being a former gymnast, gymnastics was in Brown's blood. Aside from her mom, Brown looked up to 10-year member of the United States' national gymnastics team, Dominique Dawes.

"I got to meet [Dawes] at one of my club meets. She signed my first cell phone and I still have it today," Brown said. "She was definitely one of my role models growing up."

From a young age, Brown loved performing floor routines. The floor exercise was the apparatus that she excelled at most, until her sophomore year of high school.

While performing on the floor, Brown ruptured her Achilles tendon. With the support of her family and teammates, she was able to return to gymnastics, but not before tearing her other Achilles tendon two years later.

"That's where most people would say I've had enough of gymnastics," Penn State head coach Jeff Thompson said. "The fact that she came back and she's now competing in her third year of college is a testament to her strength and courage."

While battling injury, Brown needed a way to continue practicing gymnastics without always having to be on her feet. That is when she turned to the uneven bars.

"After I tore my Achilles, the bars were the only thing I could do," Brown said. "So it then became my favorite event because I got good at it."

Brown took her talent on the bars to the University of Georgia to start her collegiate career. As a Gym Dog, Brown was named All-SEC in 2014 after tying for second on the uneven bars at the SEC Championship and finished the 2014 season as tied for 19th in the nation on the uneven bars.

After two seasons at the University of Georgia, Brown decided to make a change. She looked at multiple schools in the SEC and had dreamed of going to school in Florida since she was a little girl, but once she visited Penn State, there was no going back.

"Right when I came on the visit it was just like 'yeah this was it'," Brown said. "The campus was beautiful. I loved Rachelle [Thompson] and Jeff [Thompson] and the way they talked about the girls, I knew this was the team I wanted to be apart of."

Coach Thompson knew that Brown's personality and experience would fit in well on his young team. Making a name for herself on the bars in high school and college, Brown knew there were high expectations of her coming to this Penn State team. However, Coach Thompson had even more.

"We told her when she transferred here that we saw her as an all-arounder. She never competed as an all around gymnast at Georgia," Thompson said. "But she's known since day one that those were our expectations of her.

In her first meet as a Nittany Lion this past weekend, Brown led Penn State in the all-around category with a score of 38.950 tying for second overall. Brown scored a 9.60 on the vault, 9.70 on the floor, 9.80 on the balance beam and a stellar 9.95 on the uneven bars.

"I think for her to go 9.95 on bars in the first meet of the year is a testament to her," Thompson said. "We knew she was one of the best bar workers in the country, but this basically tells everybody that it doesn't matter if she's in a red leotard or blue leotard the judges recognize that routine as being outstanding."

The Nittany Lions host Nebraska on Saturday at 4 p.m. during the annual "Flip For The Cure" meet in Rec Hall.

 


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By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In a back and forth battle Wednesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center, the Lady Lions put together a great come-from-behind effort in the fourth quarter against Nebraska that showed mental toughness and the ability to focus while climbing back from a deficit.  Despite an 83-78 defeat at the hands of the Cornhuskers (11-5, 2-3), Penn State showed grit and resiliency after being down double-digits to turn the game into a one possession game with under a minute remaining.  The practices the team had leading up to the game had a lot to do with the increased level of intensity shown in the fourth quarter according to junior Kaliyah Mitchell.

"We've been practicing all week about competing so I feel like in the fourth quarter we were all thinking in our heads this is what we've been practicing for so that's what we went out and played hard for," she said. 

Down nine points headed to the last period, Brianna Banks and Taniya Page took turns hitting clutch shots that kept the Blue and White in the contest, starting with a Banks three-pointer with 9:03 remaining in the game that put her team down just six.  With just over six minutes to play in regulation, Banks was at it again, drilling another shot behind the arc to make it a two-point game.  Meanwhile Teniya Page hit a three of her own with two minutes left, and had a beautiful left-handed lay-in to stay in striking distance.  On the other side of the court, lots of movement and key plays down the stretch forced Nebraska turnovers and limited their opportunities to score.

A no-call with Penn State down three and 12 ticks on the clock gave possession to Nebraska that sealed the deal, but if the incidental contact call near the end of the game was called a foul, it easily could have flipped the script in Penn State's favor.  A steal by the Lady Lions led to a fast break with the opportunity to go to the line down just three, but there was contact under the basket that was not called, and the ball trickled out of bounds. 

Either way, the clutch players for the home team definitely showed up after trailing early in the game. 

"This game was a game we really competed.  When we were down, we still held our heads up instead of getting down on ourselves and like I said before, we've just been working on competing and working hard," said Mitchell.  "We had 2 great practices so I think continuing that throughout the season is something that will get us together and allow us to continue to compete."

After being outscored 29-11 in the first quarter, the team did not show any signs of quitting.  Head coach Coquese Washington was happy with the way her team fought back and gave everything they had.

"I was happy with the intensity and the effort in the fourth quarter.  We talked in the third quarter and at beginning of the fourth quarter about not trying to...make home run plays and get it all together at one time, but to try to go score stop score, or stop score stop.  We wanted to put together possessions where we got stops in a row and we were able to do that and that seemed to give us a little bit of energy and momentum on the offensive end."

It was a tough loss for Penn State, who gave the fans and themselves an opportunity to beat a good Nebraska team through sheer hustle and determination.  The Lady Lions (6-10, 1-4) can use their fourth quarter run as a building block this Sunday as the team will host Michigan in the Pink Zone game at 2:00 p.m. 

 

 


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By Jack MilewskiGoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer   
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Long breaks are a part of every sports team's season. In college athletics, the breaks can be even longer for athletes due to the fact that winter and summer breaks encompass a large portion of time during either the spring/fall seasons or fall/winter seasons. For the Penn State women's hockey team, they enjoyed a month long break between their last game of 2015 and their first game of 2016. The team then split the opening 2016 series with Ohio State, playing two quality games on the road before starting conference play again this weekend at RIT.

"We are really confident right now, really excited to get back to league play," said Brandwene. "Again the defensive effort and the grit in front of the net and we also had a really nice power play goal on Sunday also, there is a lot to look forward to."

Before the Ohio State series, the Penn State team enjoyed a break of almost a month, ending its 2015 portion of the season with a trip to Princeton. The end of the year grind did not stop there for the Nittany Lions. If anything, it only intensified. With finals almost immediately after the series, the squad was back to the grindstone in a different way.

"They had final exams after that last series and obviously that is the singular focus at the end of the semester," said Brandwene.

It is well documented that this Penn State team works just as hard off the ice as they do on the ice and Brandwene said that the preparation for finals was no different. After finals, the Nittany Lion's finally got a much needed break after a grueling stretch of eight straight road games. Brandwene explained that during the break the players were given time to go home and visit with their families. After that hiatus they came back to Penn State ready to work in preparation for the Ohio State series.

"They had some time to spend with their families," said Brandwene. "Then after that we had what we call minicamp. It's about four or five days of practice before we headed out to Ohio State."

Freshman Hannah England experienced her first winter break on the division one hockey squad and said that it was simply a great way to keep her mind off the game and see family for a few days before returning to the grind that is the regular season.

"We didn't get much of a break so it was more of a mental flush and relaxation time before we get ready for the next half of the season," said England.

Brandwene said that there is an element of staying in shape and keeping up with conditioning during the break, but so much of the sport is muscle memory that it also didn't need to be practiceheavy. That is also what the minicamp is for, to get the players back into a hockey mindset and out of that relaxation mode.

A long break can either hurt a team or help them. It is very rare in sports that a team stays stagnant after a break for that long. For England, she took the pensive approach to the break, saying that she thought it helped to just sit back and reflect on the quality of the teams play.

"I think it helps because it gives us some time off to think about what we just accomplished as a team," said England. "So in that regard I think that the break really helps."

Now, after a series in Ohio State and another week off, the Penn State women's team will get back to their regular weekly series. A road trip to RIT awaits the anxious Nittany Lions who agree that they are coming off one of their better series of the season with a lot to build on.

"I think it's mostly about finishing for us," said junior Kelly Seward. "Whether it is finishing goals or finishing our back checks we just want to work hard with everything we do."

After the road trip Penn State has four straight series at home, it will mark the first home games that Penn State has played since November sixth and seventh.

"I think it's pretty exciting, being home is always good," said Seward. "It's nice to be in this rink and have all our facilities here as well, it just makes it a lot easier for us."

Puck drop against RIT is set for 7:00 p.m. on Friday with the second game of the series set for an afternoon start at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday.

 

 

 

 

 

VIDEO: This Week In Penn State Wrestling - Jordan Conaway (1/13/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 1-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team (8-0, 3-0 Big Ten) returns to Rec Hall for the first time Dec. 6 to host No. 11 Nebraska (9-1, 3-1 Big Ten).

GoPSUsports.com caught up with senior Jordan Conaway to talk about the start to his season and the team's progress as the Lions continue to build towards March. Conaway is 15-2 overall and 8-0 in duals.




Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer    
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When the Lady Lions hit the court against Michigan on Sunday, Jan. 17th, they'll be doing so in unity with breast cancer survivors across the commonwealth for the annual Pink Zone game. In it's tenth year, the Lady Lions have continued to join forces with the Pennsylvania Pink Zone to present the game.

Head coach Coquese Washington has seen the event grow tremendously since she has been at Penn State, with over 700 survivors honored during last year's game.

The notoriety that the game has garnered from the team and the community has also led to more funds being raised. After raising just over $20,000 in 2007, Pink Zone topped over $300,000 in 2015. Washington is proud to have her team be a part of something so positive for the community.

"When you look at the amount of funds raised, that's one of the things that we're most proud of," Washington said. "And the vast majority of the funds that we raise stay right here, locally, in Centre County and in the state of Pennsylvania so the impact that we're having, it's touching the people who support Lady Lion Basketball, it's touching people that support Penn State."

Washington and her staff want their players to understand who and what they're playing for when they put on their pink uniforms each year. Many of the players have been touched by cancer personally, and Washington wants to give them the opportunity to express themselves.

"We try to make sure that they (the players) understand it," Washington said. "We do some different programming throughout the year with our team so they understand what Pink Zone is about and we give them an opportunity to talk about how cancer has touched them. We want them to put their arms around it, [and see] that it's not just 'oh, we play in pink uniforms.' There's a lot of history and a lot that goes into it and we want them to certainly be aware of what it all means." 

Junior Peyton Whitted has seen first-hand what it takes to defeat breast cancer. Her grandmother Lillie McKinley fought the disease while Whitted was in high school, and even moved in with Whitted and her family in order to recover.

"My grandmother had breast cancer when I was in high school. She was able to survive from it and she fought it for about 3-4 years. It was just tough because we had to move her from Tennessee because my grandfather was struggling with lung cancer at the time, as well. So we had to move both of them back into our house [in Georgia] and just take care of them," Whitted said. 

After seeing her grandma bravely fight breast cancer, the Pink Zone game holds that much more meaning to Whitted.

"This game is really special to me because I think about my grandmother and her being able to watch the game is exciting because she's here, she fought through this and it's great to see all the other survivors along with her," Whitted said. "It's just a great feeling just to do that but it also makes you reflect and be thankful that you're able to do what you love." 

Whitted and her teammates play an important role in making the Pink Zone game successful. The team hosts fundraisers throughout the year, and even visit patients to show their support for their fight.

"We do a lot of things as far as our community service," Whitted said. "We do the Hoop Shoot before football games where we try to raise money for the cause and people just come and shoot with us. Two years ago we met with patients and we talked to them, so we want to make sure that we're doing our part as far as having them come support us and then also supporting them by raising money." 

As game day draws closer, Washington is looking forward to another successful Pink Zone game. Breaking records year after year, she is hoping that this year's game will be just as great as the previous ones.

"It's a great day for us; our kids absolutely love it; they absolutely love the Pink Zone game. I'm looking forward to it and hopefully we'll have another spectacular year this year in terms of survivors and funds raised and the experience. I'm sure the experience is going to be a fantastic [one]," Washington said. 

The Pink Zone game is Sunday at the Bryce Jordan Center. Tip is set for 2:00 p.m.

 

 

Nittany Lions Begin Road Stretch at Purdue

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion basketball team (10-7, 1-3) will begin a two-game road swing inside Mackey Arena against No. 24 Purdue (14-3, 2-2) on Wednesday (8:30 p.m. on BTN).


The Lions head to West Lafayette in advance of a Saturday tilt at Northwestern (8:30 p.m. on ESPNU). The key to a Big Ten schedule is taking things one game at a time and not letting one game impact the next game on the schedule. Every game on the calendar during Big Ten play presents its own unique challenge, and that was head coach Patrick Chambers' message following last Sunday's contest against No. 5 Michigan State.


"We've got to bounce back. We've got to play harder," said Chambers. "Purdue is, in my mind, a top 25 team. They had a tough loss at Illinois, but Illinois was desperate. So, it's going to be another great challenge for us. We knew the beginning of the season was going to be difficult. But we have to stick together and keep getting better."


Step one for Chambers is playing with more consistency on the defensive end of the floor. The Nittany Lions are allowing opponents to score 79.5 points per game and shoot 48.2 percent from the field during Big Ten play. Those are numbers that Coach Chambers is adamant about the team improving upon for the Lions to have success moving forward.


Communicating better and being sound in every rotation on the defensive end are two things Chambers pinpointed when he discussed the Nittany Lions before heading to Purdue. Penn State's youth certainly plays a role in learning how to defend and rebound with more consistency. 

Sophomore guard Shep Garner is headed to Purdue after a strong two-game stretch in the Bryce Jordan Center. The Philadelphia native averaged 19.5 points per game last week, scoring 20 against Minnesota and 19 against Michigan State. He also had six assists in Penn State's win over Minnesota, marking a high for Garner in a Big Ten game.

Purdue enters the Wednesday night tilt with a 2-2 mark in conference play after falling to Illinois, 84-70, on Sunday in Champaign. Ranked as high as ninth in the nation, the Boilers started the season 11-0 before a 74-68 loss to in-state foe Butler. Purdue's only other loss prior to he Illinois game came at the hands of Iowa (70-63) inside Mackey Arena on Jan. 2.

The Boilermakers are among the top defensive teams in America. Purdue is No. 1 in defensive field goal percentage (35.9 percent) and No. 2 in defensive rebounds per game (31.1). Purdue is allowing 61.1 points per game (No. 13 nationally and No. 2 in the Big Ten). 

"Defensively, they are one of the best in the league," said Chambers. "They are right up there with Michigan State. We've really got to share the ball. We've got to move them. We've got to continue to do different things, work inside-out, put pressure on the paint and do the little things that is going to take some of the pressure off (of the offense)."

Offensively, the Boilers are No. 7 nationally in assists (311). Purdue's towering front line of A.J. Hammons (7-0), Isaac Haas (7-2) and Caleb Swanigan (6-9) make up the team's leading scorers. Hammons is averaging 13.9 points and 7.8 rebounds, Haas is averaging 10.8 points and 5.0 rebounds and Swanigan is averaging 10.1 points and 8.6 rebounds. Guard Rapheal Davis is just shy of double-digits, averaging 9.5 points per game. Dealing with Purdue's size is atop the scouting report.

"We have to get stops this game," said Chambers. "We have to play tough. We have to play physical. We have to rebound the ball. They are huge. They have great shooters coming off the bench. Everybody knows their role."

This will mark Penn State's first trip to Mackey Arena since Jan. 18, 2014. The Lions played two very close games against the Boilers last year, including an 84-77 overtime setback in the BJC and a 64-59 setback in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago.

"It's a process. We've got to continue to get these guys better. Nothing changes," said Chambers. "That's the goal today in practice. That's the goal tomorrow night at Purdue."



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