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Agee Powers Lady Lions to Victory

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10626694.jpegBy Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Lady Lions looked like a team on a mission in Sunday's victory against Rider. They opened the floodgates early, putting two on the board just 15 seconds after the tip. With only one game separating them from their conference schedule, the Lady Lions are starting to find a rhythm and develop court chemistry.

The 85-51 triumph against Rider was a true team effort with a handful of Lady Lions posting double-digit games. Freshman Lindsey Spann posted her second 20-point game of her career and Kaliyah Mitchell secured her first double-double. But for anyone watching Sunday's matchup against Rider, junior Candice Agee was a force to be reckoned with offensively and defensively.

"I think that she [Agee] is one of the players that has really grown," head coach Coquese Washington said. "Over the course these non-conference games you've seen some inconsistency with her. She plays a good half here and a good half there, but the last two or three games, we're starting to see a little more consistency from her."

Agee was on fire, tallying 19 points en route to her third double-digit scoring game of the season. While she was a major contributor on offense, Agee controlled the post last night, checking out of the game with five blocks.

"You're starting to see her confidence grow and her understanding of how she fits and how she can be an impact player for us on both ends," coach Washington said. "You're starting to see her figure that out. Whenever you can have a dominant post-player everything else can flow around that."

Standing at 6-foot-6, the California native is the tallest center coach Washington has had on her roster. Agee is impactful inside the paint; her size, confidence and patience are proving to be an unavoidable obstacle for opposing teams.

"I think it was very important for us to come out firing in the first half rather than trying to pick up [our offense] in the second half," Agee said. "This game compared to last; I made a point to become [the aggressive] player in the first half. It was very important for me to come out and dominate the paint early to open [shots] up for my teammates."

All season long, Coach Washington has been saying that as soon as her team gains some confidence that everything else will fall into place. Agee's confidence is forcing teams outside, making them take shots they aren't comfortable with. With Agee's help, the Lady Lions were able to hold Rider's leading scorer, Robin Perkins, to just six points in Sunday's contest. Perkins came into the game averaging 12.4 points per game.

"We went to the basket in the first half and really didn't get anything out of it because of her presence," coach Milligan said. "She does a great job of clogging the lane and she obviously is long and definitely altered our shots today, there's no doubt about that. That's something for them moving forward is going to be very helpful."

This season, Agee has posted at least on block in all but one game. Her efforts against Rider pushed Agee past the 50-career blocks milestone with 54 all-time and 20 this season. Agee was pretty vocal in last night's game, a necessary component to the on-court chemistry we are seeing develop with these young Lady Lions.

"We wanted to be disciplined in our rotations and make sure we were talking," Agee said. I think we all focused and made an effort to get our rotations right and that helped me get some nice blocks. We are going to keep getting better and working at it." 

Monster First Half Leads to Lady Lion Win

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10626659.jpegBy Mike Esse, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After starting slow Wednesday at Hartford, Coquese Washington stressed to her team during practice the importance of a fast start in the first half against Rider on Sunday. It's safe to say the Lady Lions listened in their 85-51 win.

Two minutes and 46 seconds into the contest, Penn State raced out to a 13-4 lead without missing a shot from the field and forcing three Rider turnovers. Just under five minutes into the game, the Lady Lions already doubled up the Broncs taking a 21-10 lead.

"We focused more on building off of that second half (against Hartford) and playing with the same level of energy and intensity to start this game," Washington said of her team's preparation prior to Sunday. "There were a lot of positives today."

Ten minutes into the first half Penn State already tallied 30 points. Point guard Lindsey Spann said that they were able to succeed immediately in the first half because they went back to playing their brand of basketball.

"We were able to get out and run in transition," Spann said. "That led to getting a lot of easy buckets. Our spacing was good and people were knocking down open shots, so that helped us out a lot."

When the first half ended Penn State held a 50-23 lead, as they shot 55.6 percent from the field, forced 13 Rider turnovers and outrebounded the Broncs 29-18. Penn State's impressive first half stats didn't go away in the second half as they ended up winning by a margin of 34 points.

With a young team, that is learning from each and every game, being up by 20 points or more could allow them to lessen the energy in the second half or as the lead grew larger, but the Lady Lions kept pushing.

"We can't get too comfortable," guard Keke Sevillian said of what her team was focusing on in the second half. "We may be up 20 points, but this game was about us and us getting better at the things we need to [get better at] before conference play starts. We try to not look at the scoreboard. We can't get to comfortable with any lead. We have to continue to play our game."

Washington was impressed with that aspect of her team's dominating performance.

"I was glad that we didn't have long stretches of play where the energy and focus wasn't where we needed it to be," she said. "For a young team, I think they're learning that 40 minutes is a long time. It's a long game and a lot can happen both positive and negative, if you relax or if you don't play with intensity. We learned that lesson in some of our earlier games and I think they responded to that challenge tonight by staying focused and playing hard for 40 minutes."

Playing hard was also a major takeaway for Washington. Her teams have traditionally become successful because of their energy and relentless play defensively.

That style of play has been on display all season during the non-conference, but perhaps none more than Sunday against Rider.

"It always comes down to who wants it more," Sevillian said. "At the end of the game it came down to effort. Effort includes transitions, diving for the ball, steals and deflections. That is what it comes down to so it is very important that we hone in on that every game."

With one non-conference game to play before opening the Big Ten schedule, Washington reflected on her team's progression thus far.

"In terms of preparation, it's been a big learning experience for us," Washington said. "Developing an identity, developing our on-court chemistry, developing a rhythm in terms of how we want to play and what we can expect each night. Even after 10 games, it's still a work in progress."

By Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Every winning team begins somewhere, whether it is an adjustment to a new a coach, a new playbook, or an entirely new roster. Winning rarely ever just happens; if it did, watching a team grow into their own wouldn't be as enjoyable.

It is no secret that the Lady Lions are facing a learning curve this season. Penn State graduated four starting seniors last year: Talia East, Ariel Edwards, Dara Taylor and Maggie Lucas. Last year's senior class won three regular-season Big Ten championships, secured a bid for the NCAA tournament four times, and recorded 101 wins, the second most by a class in Penn State women's basketball history.

From the beginning of the season, head coach Coquese Washington has said that this season was going to be a process. Coach Washington and her staff have had to reinvent their playbook, learn a new team and virtually jumpstart a new era of Lady Lion basketball. The Lady Lions are working week-in and week-out with a roster that is mostly sophomores.

"I have seen a lot of growth in this team, though it hasn't necessarily shown up on game day," Washington said. "There is growth in practice and there is growth in games. Coaching is like raising kids: some kids have growth-spurts at different times."

If this past weekend's win against Wagner proves anything it is this: the team is coming into their own. With only eight games under their belt, the Lady Lion's are building off of a 2-6 record. The next three games are the last matchups for Penn State before they begin conference play.

"We have played eight games so far; it looks like eight games," Washington said. I thought it was fantastic to have three girls post 20-point games this weekend. The pace that we played against Seton Hall is the pace that we would like to see more often."

For anyone watching Sunday afternoon's matchup, you could see the energy the Lady Lions had on the court. That level of energy is something that spectators and opposing teams will see moving forward with the season, as the team is only becoming more confident." 

"I think our leadership with Lindsey (Spann), Sierra (Moore) and Kaliyah (Mitchell) will be inspired by the consistency of their play," Washington said. "As we continue to grow as a team and develop a standard of consistency, especially as we head into conference play, our team will come into its own."

Coach Washington's plan for this team changes with every game. The Lady Lion's have operated with five different starting lineups and with a young team; trial and error is common place. Without a doubt, the Lady Lions are heading into Wednesday's matchup against Hartford with a confidence boost, but coach Washington wants her team to learn how to build momentum and not rely on momentum from a previous game.

"Wagner was a great experience for us, maybe even cathartic in some ways," coach Washington said. "Hartford is going to be a different challenge; they play taller and bigger teams really tough. If you are going to momentum it has to be because you are focused at the task at hand. We will get there."

The Lady Lions square off against Hartford, on the road, on Wednesday at 7 p.m. 

Learning Process Continues as Lady Lions Top Wagner

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10612179.jpegBy Mike Esse, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coquese Washington has been open about it since day one of the 2014-15 season - it's a continual work in progress. Part of that work in progress is how a team comes off of a setback, which Penn State (2-6) did very well Sunday topping Wagner (0-7) 96-66.

Her players agree with that assessment and used Sunday's win as another learning point in the young season.

"I don't think our confidence was ever in question," sophomore guard Sierra Moore said. "We just keep working hard every day in practice and we knew what we had to [improve] upon and we knew that if we worked on the things that we needed to [work on], the outcome would be good."

Teammate Lindsey Spann had similar thoughts to Moore stating they know it's a day-by-day mentality in terms of the team's improvement.

"We know that we have a lot of potential, so we just have to be willing to get improve each time on the court," guard Lindsey Spann said. "If we can put up [96 points] each time, then that's what we're going do, but it's just about growth and getting better for us right now."

Washington said after Sunday's win she did see many areas of her team's play improve, which proves to them they are capable of playing the way they want to if they continue to trust the process.

Against Wagner, Washington specifically noticed her team's discipline is starting to get better as they play more games.

"When you're young, you don't always have the discipline to execute," Washington said. "One of the things I was pleased with today was that I saw a lot more discipline out there, especially defensively in the first half.

"What I'm starting to see is a lot more discipline and execution. It's allowing us to be successful."

By being able to own a commanding lead in the second half, Washington was able to test out a few different lineup combinations. Some featured three guards on the floor at the same time; others featured three forwards on the floor at the same time.

Washington even experimented having a lineup without leading scorers Lindsey Spann and Sierra Moore on the floor at the same time, being able to see what other players could contribute in their absence.

"We're still young and we're still finding combinations that play well together," Washington said. "We started one lineup to start the game, but we went with a smaller one pretty quickly that worked a lot better."

This won't be the last time Washington does this, either. By mixing up who is on the floor together, the team becomes comfortable in what could be uncomfortable situations moving forward.

"We will probably have to go with the lineup that's working that night based on matchups and foul issues," said Washington. "It's good that we have a lot of options to go to. We can play big if we need to and we can play small if we need to. As long as we're doing a good job of taking care of the ball and rebounding, like we did today, then I think we'll be alright."

The next task for the Lady Lions is Hartford on the road Wednesday at 7 p.m. before returning home to the BJC to face Rider at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Spann, Moore and Mitchell Lead Lions Past Wagner

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10611015.jpegBy Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Looking to snap a skid, the Lady Lions took the court against Wagner Sunday afternoon hungry for a victory. Thanks to a big afternoon from Lindsey Spann, Sierra Moore and Kaliyah Mitchell, the Lions powered past Wagner for a 96-66 win inside the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday.

Heading into this season, coach Coquese Washington knew that it would take a few games for her team to find their groove and develop some on-court chemistry. But, during Sunday's contest it was obvious that Spann, Moore and Mitchell have come into their own, as the trio contributed to 62 of 96 points for the Lady Lions. Sunday was the first time since 2011 that three Lady Lions registered 20 points or more in the same game.

"They are our starting backcourt and they are starting to develop some chemistry on both ends of the floor," coach Washington said. "Chemistry, especially with guard play, is big for our program. When our guard play has been fluid, we've been a better team. That's what we saw out there tonight."

Spann versus the Seahawks
The redshirt freshman got the ball rolling for the Lady Lions following the opening tip, as she sunk the first basket of the matchup just 18 seconds in. Spann netted her 100th career point just 3:30 into the matchup. She finished with 22 on the night, securing her eighth-straight double-digit performance of her career.

"This was a team win," Spann said. "We were sharing the ball and getting each other open looks. We worked on our transition [at practice] and by doing the things we practice it can open things up for all of us."

She wasn't kidding; Moore and Mitchell followed suit with career-high games.  

Moore versus the Seahawks
Aside from posting a 20-point game, the sophomore was nearly perfect from the free throw line, going 11 for 12 on the game (21 total points). Moore also tallied seven assists, a career-best, with her five-assist game against Seton Hall coming in second. 

"We did a good job of moving the ball tonight," Moore said. "Just passing the ball around and getting a lot of ball reversals opens up a lot of different opportunities for us. When that happens, it's easier to get to the basket and score."

Mitchell versus the Seahawks
Mitchell's sophomore season is off to a solid start, as she notched her 200th career point with a layup in Sunday's matchup. With two solid halves on Sunday, Mitchell tallied 20 for the Lady Lions.

"I think it [career high game] was another sign of growth," Mitchell said. "Moving from last year to this year, it was a rough start but I have just been focusing on my game. Being able to contribute to the team is something that I'm really focused on and I will try to do it any way I can."

Undeniable Court Chemistry
Individually, Spann, Moore and Mitchell are starting to come into their own; they are becoming more and more comfortable on the offensive end of the floor. But, this trio is strongest together. Aside from the 96-66 win, the mere fact that three Lady Lions had 20-point nights shows they are finding each other on the court and creating opportunities for multiple scorers.

Sunday's contest was the highest point total the team has secured all season and was just 20 points shy of tying the Bryce Jordan Center's all time record of 117 points scored in a single game (Nov. 8, 2013 against St. Francis).

Team bests aside, Sunday's much needed win wouldn't have been possible without the efforts of Spann, Mitchell and Moore on both offense and defense.   

"They are all starting to develop camaraderie out there on both ends of the floor," Washington said. "When they are playing with that kind of confidence and synergy amongst themselves, it rubs off on the rest of the team and provides us the opportunity to make good plays."

Spann Shining in Debut Season

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By Mike Esse, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Lindsey Spann set out a plan prior to her arrival to Penn State in the summer of 2013, one that included her being on the court during her first college basketball season. However, it turned out to be the exact opposite of what she planned: sitting on the bench due to an injury that sidelined her for an entire season.

She played the waiting game, while rehabbing and training so she could be playing at a top level upon her return to the court in her debut Lady Lion season.

It's safe to say in the early stages of the 2014-'15 season this part of Spann's new plan of excelling on the court is panning out just fine.

The redshirt freshman is in the top two on the team in minutes played, points, assists, steals and free throw percentage six games into the season. She has also led the team in scoring in three of its six games and has yet to post a game without a double-digit point total.

Her head coach says the explanation of her success is simple: an unmatched work ethic.

"Lindsey is a competitor," head coach Coquese Washington said. "She killed it in the training room last year. She was remarkable with her work ethic coming back from her knee injury. It says a lot about her determination to be able to come back and step right in and not miss a beat physically."

Spann spent countless hours in the training room rehabbing and getting stronger in efforts to be ready for this season, while having to deal with the tough reality of not being able to play day in and day out.

"The hardest part about it was not being able to play," Spann said. "It was just about keeping a positive attitude and knowing that everything was going to be alright and everything happens for a reason and I had to work to get better."

Her efforts to return to the court did not go unnoticed in the Lady Lion locker room.

"You can definitely see that she worked really hard in the offseason to get back to where she is now," fellow guard Sierra Moore said. "I think she has grown more and matured more as a player even though she is a freshman on the court I think that experience of watching the game and getting to know it is an advantage as a point guard. "

Although it may not seem like it's true, there were many benefits for Spann as she sat out the 2013-'14 season, some of which are visible with her play this season.

Spann was able to watch tremendous guards and leaders in Maggie Lucas and Dara Taylor and see how they approached the game both as players and as leaders.

"I realized that I needed to bring a lot more energy and be loud and encouraging and become a leader that's demanding of what we expect of each other," Spann said.

Washington agreed.

"I think being able to watch it and see it up close gave her some perspective," the head coach said. "Lindsey is a different type of leader and different type of leader for this team. The things she picked up on were the impact that the point guard has on the team and how the point guard has to be the engine and the heart of the team."

Now, with that season behind her, Spann is taking all of her experiences and see them come full circle and Washington is not surprised with the outcome.

"She has a pretty high basketball IQ and as she's adjusting to the speed of the game and the contact of the game she's getting better and better every night out," Washington said. "She has confidence in her abilities and that's allowed her to step into the starting point guard spot as a freshman and have a measure of success."

Penn State heads to Syracuse on Thursday for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Tip is at 7 p.m.

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, 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.

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."

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, 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.