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Happy Thanksgiving from Penn State Athletics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - 'Tis the season for giving thanks, and the Penn State Athletics would like to take an opportunity to say thank you to the loyal fans on Thanksgiving.

As you sit down with family and friends to eat your traditional meal while the Lions and Cowboys host their annual Thanksgiving day home games, Penn State Athletics would like to thank you, the fans, for the unrivaled support you give every team on campus.  Penn State's teams would not be the same without the greatest fans in college sports.

As a token of their appreciation, several student-athletes from teams on campus would like to say thank you and Happy Thanksgiving for the support you give them throughout the athletic season.

Despite Outcome, A Game of Firsts For Young Lady Lions

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10565481.jpegBy Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It has been 14 years since the Lady Lions and the Seton Hall Pirates have battled it out on the court. In the 10th meeting of the series on Saturday evening in the Bryce Jordan Center, the Lady Lions came up on the short end of a seesaw 75-70 decision.

The Lady Lions are a young team. With only one returning starter, Penn State is starting a sophomore-heavy team, a reality that head coach Coquese Washington believes was clear in Saturday's game.

"I think our youth showed tonight," Washington said. "We need to get more confident and comfortable playing with one another at this pace."

Despite the loss, there are some major takeaways from this game that the Lady Lions can use to their advantage heading into their matchup against St. Bonaventure on Tuesday.

Notables
The Lady Lions got off to a slow start, with their first bucket coming three minutes into the game after the Pirates put nine on the board. Penn State cut into the deficit, but the Pirates pulled away with a 21-8 lead with 10 minutes before the half.

"I feel like it got away from us from the jump," junior Candice Agee said. "We fought hard to stay in the game and get back in it, but at the end Seton Hall got the better of us. We have to give it up to them for that."

Agee was superb for the Lady Lions, leading the team with 21 points in Saturday's contest, along with five rebounds and two blocks. Agee took command inside the paint for the 17 minutes she was on the court, helping the Lady Lions stay in the game until the very end.

"I just want to play hard," Agee said. "I want to be able to do what needs to be done for my team and what is asked of me. If some nights it looks like a 20 point game, then that is alright with me."

Sophomore Sierra Moore posted a career-high game, tallying 14 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and a block. Moore was a major asset during the game playing for 37 minutes, the most on the team.


"Whatever is asked of us, we do." Moore said. "We all take turns in practice (playing point guard); that's what practice is for."

Takeaways
Regardless of the slow start, it is obvious that this young Lady Lion team is hungry. Coach Washington took her team to the locker room at half time trailing the Pirates 37-29.

"We talked about playing a little bit faster and moving the ball (in the second half)," Washington said. "We had a lot more energy in the second than the first."

The Lady Lions turned on the offensive strategy taking the lead, 40-39, five minutes into the second half. The Lions closed to within one at 71-70, but that is as close as they would get down the stretch. Fouls and turnovers in the last 30 seconds hindered the Lions in the 75-70 loss, an issue coach Washington believes will work itself out.

"We have to do a better job at the free throw line," Washington said. "I think that if we can fix a few small things, we aren't that far away. We are three games in and I am still getting to know this team. We rallied back and put ourselves in a position to tie it, even possibly force overtime. This is the learning curve, the growing pains of a young team."


Up Next
The Lady Lions take on St. Bonaventure on Tuesday at the Bryce Jordan Center. Following Tuesday's contest, they will travel to Atlanta, Georgia, for the Georgia State Thanksgiving Tournament Nov. 28-30. 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Lady Lions close out the Preseason WNIT on Saturday against Seton Hall, a matchup that has been on hiatus since 1998. With one exhibition game and two preseason matchups under its belt, the young Lady Lion basketball team is ready to place another 'W' in the win column.

Seton Hall's style of play is something similar to what Penn State demonstrates on the court; attack in transition.

Heading into this Saturday's game, head coach Coquese Washington and her staff are firm that if the team can attack the paint in transition, the Lady Lions will come out on top.

"We've got to get more free throws," said coach Washington. "We've got to get more pressure on the defense by attacking the paint."

The Lady Lions are known to be a fast-paced team that can sink baskets on transition. This season, the key to execute just that is point guard Lindsey Spann. A newcomer to the starting lineup, the Laurel, Maryland native is leading the Blue and White in scoring after posting 14 points against Albany and 17 against Towson last week.

"She's a fantastic point guard," said coach Washington. "She has a really high basketball IQ. She sees the floor and has a knack for scoring."

Spann isn't only focusing on her offensive contributions but how she can further aid on defense.

"I'm working on hustling, being more aggressive on defense, getting deflections and steals," said Spann.

Washington knows that the Lady Lion defense will have to be prepared when the Pirates come to University Park.

They're a pretty aggressive team," said Washington. "They've got really quick guards who do a great job attacking the basket. They're going to put pressure on our defense with their dribble penetration."

Senior Tori Waldner's experience and height is no secret for the Lady Lion defense. Waldner has tallied 20 rebounds in two games. However, the Lady Lion defense is looking to increase its total boards across the roster tomorrow.

"Seton Hall throws up a lot of shots," assistant coach Itoro Coleman said. "We have to rebound. They move very quickly in their offense and there will be plenty of opportunities for us to rebound. How well we are able to get the 50/50 balls will determine who will win this game."

The Lady Lions will tip off with Seton Hall on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center. 

DeGraaf Shines Against Albany

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10543101.jpegBy Mike Esse, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In a game that was back and forth for the duration of the contest, Penn State and Albany traded big shot after big shot.

With 1:28 to go and down three, Penn State's big shot came from sharpshooter Jenny DeGraaf, who nailed a 3-pointer from the wing to tie the game at 53-53.


DeGraaf gave a fist pump and tried to get the Lady Lion crowd in the Bryce Jordan Center on its feet. Both her shooting and her energy are what head coach Coquese Washington wants to see as a constant from DeGraaf this season. It's safe to say she got it on Sunday.

The sophomore was 4-for-4 with a career-high 12 points, all of which came in the three-point fashion in Penn State's 54-53 setback to Albany. DeGraaf said she was successful off the bench Sunday because she knew that was exactly how the coaches wanted her to play and perform.

"Our coaching staff has talked to all of us about our roles. I know that's my role," DeGraaf said. "I know I have to come in the game and be an offensive spurt and that's what I try to do. The girls got me the ball when they could and I was able to knock down some shots."

Washington and the Lady Lion coaching staff made it clear that DeGraaf would be a shooting threat off the bench and the Springboro, Ohio, native has took that to heart.

As a coach, Washington said that it is a luxury not only to have a sharpshooter off the bench, but especially one that knows exactly what she is asked of when she enters the game. Penn State tried to establish and inside presence against the Great Danes and couldn't entirely do so, thus DeGraaf was able to take advantage of the Albany focus on the interior and succeed from the exterior.

"The thing is, we wanted to get more looks inside with our size, but [Albany] did a pretty good job of packing the paint and making it tough for us to get those looks inside," Washington said. "The fact that we can bring Jenny in and she can make some shots off the bench against a zone defense is big."

Coaches look for two things from bench players, according to Washington - the player to affect the game statistically and emotionally. DeGraaf did just that against Albany.

Her 12 points and perfect shooting from downtown directly affected the statistical part of the game, but it was hard to miss what happened after that. DeGraaf would wave her arms to pump up the crowd or high five her teammates with noticeable passion and energy, sparking the Lady Lions.

"That's what you want from somebody who comes off the bench," Washington said. "You want them to be somebody to affect the momentum of the game and you can do that in a number of ways.

You can do it statistically, but you can also do it emotionally and today Jenny did both. She came off the bench and gave us a lift both emotionally and statistically."

DeGraaf's impact was felt on all aspects of the game and in the postgame press conference Albany head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson noted that her team struggled covering Penn State's three-point threat.

"Our game plan was to make them take outside shots," she said. "But, not [Jenny DeGraaf], we weren't supposed to be letting her shoot from out there,"

DeGraaf's career day will be one she humbly thinks she still can improve on and take with her moving forward as she continues to try and improve her impact on the Lady Lions.

However, it was certainly visible on Sunday.

LIVE BLOG: Lady Lions Host Albany

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live in-game coverage on GoPSUsports.com for the Penn State women's basketball preseason WNIT second round contest against Albany on Sunday, November 16 inside the Bryce Jordan Center.

Be sure to interact with today's blog coverage with questions or comments at the bottom of our widget. Post your photos to Instagram or Twitter and use #PennState or #LadyLions and your photos may be chosen for use on our in-game coverage.

Live Blog Lady Lions Host Albany
 

LIVE BLOG: Lady Lions Host Albany

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live in-game coverage on GoPSUsports.com for the Penn State women's basketball preseason WNIT second round contest against Albany on Sunday, November 16 inside the Bryce Jordan Center.

Be sure to interact with today's blog coverage with questions or comments at the bottom of our widget. Post your photos to Instagram or Twitter and use #PennState or #LadyLions and your photos may be chosen for use on our in-game coverage.

Live Blog Lady Lions Host Albany
 

LIVE BLOG: Lady Lions Host Albany

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live in-game coverage on GoPSUsports.com for the Penn State women's basketball preseason WNIT second round contest against Albany on Sunday, November 16 inside the Bryce Jordan Center.

Be sure to interact with today's blog coverage with questions or comments at the bottom of our widget. Post your photos to Instagram or Twitter and use #PennState or #LadyLions and your photos may be chosen for use on our in-game coverage.

Live Blog Lady Lions Host Albany
 

Preseason WNIT Brings Unique Start to Season

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After months of practice and an exhibition game, the long-awaited season opener for the Penn State Lady Lions takes place Friday at the Bryce Jordan Center against Towson. With a team filled with youth and talent, excitement for the season opener is extremely high for Lady Lion coaches and players.

The noon tip begins the Preseason WNIT for Penn State, a unique way to start the season in a tournament format.

"It's a great experience opportunity for our group," said assistant coach Kia Damon. "We're still gelling and coming together and figuring out our roles and how all of this is going to come together on the court in competitive situations. The more games we can play, especially early, the more we can get a read on where we need to go moving forward."

Penn State has only participated in the Preseason WNIT one other time in program history back in 2002 when they finished in second place. Head coach Coquese Washington said that the format of the tournament presents a lot of benefits for her young team that has limited experience in an NCAA postseason tournament situation.

The tournament is pieced together just like postseason tournaments: the more you win, the more you play. Washington said having that mindset is a great benefit for her young team.

"It allows us to focus on one game at a time," Washington said. "We don't know what's going on in the other brackets all we can control and even focus on is Towson. With a young team that is pretty helpful to focus on one game at a time. You talk about it and you say it but kids start to look at the schedule but for us, you can't look ahead."

Washington hopes a long sustained run in the tournament can be a teaching point come March when the conference and postseason tournaments come around.

"If we are fortunate enough to advance through the tournament we know we are going to play some really talented teams every round," she said. "That's the biggest benefit I see you are playing in postseason mentality from the very beginning of the season."

As for the season's first opponent, Towson provides unique challenges for the Lady Lions according to Damon. Traditionally, the Tigers have switched from zone and man defenses, providing a little more preparation for the Lady Lions.

Damon said the coaches have told the players about the difficulty in attacking such a defense, but at the end of the day the Lady Lion brand of basketball they have implemented is the only style that will bring success.

"It can be a little tricky to attack so you have to be on your p's and q's and be alert," Damon said. "We're going to do what we normally do and execute our game plan and see where that gets us. We are faced pace advantage basketball and we are known for playing in transition is what we are known for and we're going to continue that."

A Lady Lion win Friday would bring a quick turn around, as they would play Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center. 

Lady Lions Building From Exhibition Against IUP

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10497136.jpegBy Mike Esse, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach Coquese Washington has been very straightforward when evaluating her 2014-'15 Lady Lion basketball team - they are young and are a work in progress with a huge upside. Washington had that evaluation solely from practice and workouts prior to Sunday's exhibition game against IUP, the first time her new look team took the court together in a game like environment.

Although the 75-71 win won't count on the season record, there were many takeaways from the hard fought win over the Crimson Hawks.

Good To Be Back
The much-anticipated return to the court of guards Lindsey Spann and Sierra Moore started off well in their first appearance as Lady Lions.

Moore, who transferred from Duke and sat out all of last season, tallied 18 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes on the floor. She also shot efficiently from the field, shooting 61.5 percent and tallied 17 of her 18 points in the second half.

"It was great to be back on the court with the people you love," Moore said. "It's our family, so to get out there are practicing [with them all of last year] and finally play in front of your home crowd was great."

Spann's return was equally as impressive, as her final line featured 14 points, four assists and three rebounds in 37 minutes of play. Sunday marked Spann's first time in a college game like experience, as she was injured for the entire 2013-'14 season after suffering an ACL injury.

She was able to command the offense and provide a noticeable presence on defense in her first time playing with a Lady Lion jersey on.

"For it to be my first college game I was excited and I enjoyed it," she said.

Her head coach enjoyed it, too.

"I thought Lindsey did a pretty good job of running the team for a freshman who has never played a game before, and also playing with other new players," Washington said. "It's not like she is walking in the door and she is a freshman with some experience around her. I thought she did a fantastic job of leading the team and running the team."

Spreading The Wealth
Penn State had four players in double figures, and it seemed like one of the four players shined at different points of the game. Kaliyah Mitchell and Jenny DeGraaf joined Spann and Moore in double figures with 12 and 11 points, respectively.

"That is one of the pleasant surprises about this team," she said. ""We don't necessarily have that one player that we have to rely on, but we can get contributions from a lot of people."

The sharpshooting DeGraaf provided sparks in both halves, going 3-for-3 in the first half and 1-for-2 in the second with two three pointers and four total rebounds in 24 minutes of play. Junior College transfer Dominique Brooks and sophomore Keke Sevillian also chipped in with eight combined points, five rebounds, three steals and a block.

All three players came off of the bench for Penn State, adding to the scoring depth on the roster.

"Our bench production will be good this year," Washington said. "Our bench can be really impactful for us and allow everybody to step up at different times and make plays."

Owning The Glass
The Lady Lions had its largest statistical advantage in the rebounding category Sunday afternoon. Led by Peyton Whitted who had 10 boards, the blue and white out-rebounded the Crimson Hawks 48 to 27.

Besides Whitted, there were four other players with five-plus rebounds, including Mitchell's nine and Moore's seven. Penn State's work on the glass led to 48 points in the paint and 14 second-chance points.

Work inside was perhaps the equalizer and eventual difference as the Crimson Hawks attempted 32 three pointers, many of which Penn State was able to collect off the miss.

"We use our size to impact the boards," Washington said. "We do a good job of getting out of transition and now we just have to get better at the decision making aspect and making sure those are positive plays."

Things To Work On
There are still categories Penn State needs to improve on as their young squad continues to mold.

On the state sheet, the most glaring category that needs improvement is taking care of the basketball. Penn State gave the ball up 20 times compared to IUP's 12 turnovers. Both players and coaches said that is a product of young and inexperienced players in a fast paced game environment.

"I think some of it was rushing," Spann said. "We just needed to calm down and not rush things. From both a passer and a receiver, we just need to take care of the ball."

Communication is also something Washington wants to see improve, but she knows that is a byproduct of having a younger team.

"We have to get our communication better," Washington said. "When you ask what we did well, it is 'we did this well but.' We have to get better, but I am confident we will."

Scheme-wise, the one area Penn State was in an uncomfortable situation was when IUP when into a zone defense. In years past, Maggie Lucas was a source of bail out for Penn State, but now there is not one singular answer to a zone defense.

Washington said that improvement will come by continuing to practice a zone offense and ways to teach her players how to attack it better. She did say though, at times her players handled the zone the right way.

"I think you saw flashes of when we move the ball we can give our shooters open shot sand we can get shots for our cutters in different spots," Washington said.

Penn State is back in action with the preseason WNIT on Friday Nov. 14 at noon against Towson at the Bryce Jordan Center.

A Balancing Act: The Tori Waldner Story

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10480482.jpegBy Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After winning their third consecutive Big Ten title and posting a 24-8 record, the Lady Lions graduated four seniors, leaving them with only one returning starter for 2014-'15.

Enter Tori Waldner.


A senior forward, Waldner is taking over the helm of the Lady Lions' leadership this season, a role that fellow teammate Peyton Whitted believes she has always owned.

"Tori (Waldner) has always been someone we look up to," Whitted said. "I don't think that this year will be any different."

Over the past three seasons, Waldner has seen action in almost every game, starting every game last season. This Lady Lion basketball team is young, but head coach Coquese Washington is looking to Waldner to "balance" her role as a leader along with working on her game.

"She's doing a great job of being vocal without being too focused on other people and not focusing on herself," Washington said. "She's done a great job of leading my example, with effort and communication."

Leading By Example
Waldner's leadership precedes her career in the blue and white. The Milton, Georgia, native was chosen to the All-Region 6AAAAA honors team as a scholastic senior and junior, while earning the 2009 and 2010 Defensive Player of the Year Award. She led her team to a regional championship and berth into the state championship playoffs, making it to the elite eight.

"If I am the only starter coming back, I need four other people with me," Waldner said. "I am willing to do whatever it takes to get everyone ready for the season."

Waldner is a leader off the court, as well. Aside from her contributions in the classroom, she is involved outside of basketball, when time permits. This year she was voted to serve on the homecoming court, an accomplishment she said sparked a desire for her younger teammates to join other clubs and organizations.

"Coach is really into helping us and encouraging us to accomplish things outside of basketball," Waldner said. "She helps us become great women and people, which is important because all of this comes to an end at some point."

Experience
The Lady Lions made it to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen last year, a feat that Waldner contributed to during her efforts during the regular season and postseason. Her experience in tournament play will help leverage her leadership on the court. With the loss of Maggie Lucas, Ariel Edwards, Talia East and Dara Taylor, Waldner has big shoes to fill at the helm of Penn State's offensive and defensive schemes. Last season, she finished fifth on the team in scoring with 155 points (4.8 ppg), 179 rebounds (5.6 rpg) and 32 blocks. She is ranked 10th in program history with blocks per game.

"My experience, being a leader and being vocal is what I hope will help the team," Waldner said. "Coach says I know what I am doing on the court now, helping them and communicating what I am doing will help them adjust to the game."

Confidence
It was obvious at media day on Monday that both Waldner and Coach Washington are confident in this team, despite how young the group is. With several new pieces on the roster, along with a strong sophomore class, the future looks bright for the Lady Lions.

At practice, Waldner has been lending a hand to helping out with the freshman. Her style of play is something all young players can learn from, as she has had three seasons to develop as a collegiate player.

"Everyone has something special to bring to the court," Waldner said. "When we scrimmage, they show up. They will do the same in the game."