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By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - The grind of a student-athlete includes balancing both athletics and academics, and sacrificing time at home, sometimes missing holidays due to practice or games. This year, while the Lady Lions won't be able to go home for Thanksgiving like their classmates, they will be able to get away from campus. Instead of partaking in their usual training in Happy Valley this week, the team hopped on a plane and traveled out west to California to play in the Radisson Chatsworth Thanksgiving Classic.

The team left for the Golden State on Monday in preparation for their game against Cal State Northridge on Friday night. The early departure was to allow ample time for the team to get acclimated to the time difference, and to get some practice time in California.

"The time change was definitely something to get used to," said junior Peyton Whitted. "I'm an early bird so I was up at 5 a.m. [on Tuesday], but the weather's been great, we got to see a lot of California, just got to get out a little bit and enjoy the area and also prepare for our games on Friday and Saturday."

While being away from family on Thanksgiving is nothing new to the veteran players, they don't mind it as much when they get to spend it with their second family, their teammates and coaches. It's a sacrifice worth making for the chance to travel and to play against different non-conference teams.

"To me, it feels the same since I'm going into my junior year," said Kaliyah Mitchell. "I consider this [team] my family, I get along with everybody, and we're with each other throughout the whole year so it's not really Thanksgiving away from family, it's just Thanksgiving with another family. I'm getting used to being away from my family in Georgia and being with my teammates for Thanksgiving." 

With a young team, the Lady Lions are no strangers to working on their bonds as teammates, on and off the court. Being on the other side of the country together over the holidays has allowed them to strengthen that bond with each other. Whitted explained that even though they're always with each other on campus, being on a trip together in a different area with new things to do enhances that bonding experience.

"We're playing basketball two hours out of the day, so the rest of the day is for us to hang out with each other, and do whatever," Whitted said. "We went to the mall on Tuesday, and while we were there everybody kind of stayed together. We have time to go out to eat on our own, we don't have to eat in the hotel, so we're able to get out and just do things together and then spend time with each other in the hotel. We're all rooming with each other so it's been helping a lot with that bonding time."

There is a lot to learn from playing in a tournament this early in the season, and the Lady Lions are looking forward to the opportunity use it as a gauge for where they need to be at the end of the season. With a similar layout to the Big Ten Tournament, the Thanksgiving Classic will be an invaluable experience for the team.

"What's going to help with us is we play Friday and Saturday, so it's going to be a quick turnaround for us," Whitted said. "We're probably not going to be able to practice in between both of those games so that's really similar to the Big Ten Tournament, [where] we play Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We're going to have a quick turnaround where we have to be locked in for the next game because we have less than 24 hours to get ready for our next opponent."

Mitchell shares a similar sentiment, also noting that the quick turnaround will also help them since there are no bye weeks during the regular season.

"It's getting us ready to play in January and February and throughout the rest of the season," Mitchell said. "And since we don't have any byes, it's something that I think is good just to show us that it's going to be tough to play games back-to-back so we'll have to bounce back day-by-day."

There is a split responsibility between players and coaches as they get ready to face new teams in the tournament. While players work on keeping their bodies in top form, coaches are scouting teams so everyone knows what to expect heading into the game.

"Our coaches do a good job of giving us good scouting reports of the other teams, and they help us get prepared that way," Whitted said. "On our hands, mentally and physically, we have to make sure we're resting well and getting a good nights sleep because, with the time difference, we might play early, we might play late so we have to make sure we're getting the amount of rest we need in the days leading up to the tournament, and we're eating right so that our bodies are rejuvenated and ready to go no matter what time we play."

With the tournament starting the day after Thanksgiving, Whitted said it's all about choosing wisely how to fill up their plates for the holiday, and "knowing what we can and can't eat", and thinking 'is this going to help me be ready to play tomorrow?'"

The Radisson Chatsworth Thanksgiving Classic starts Friday with BYU and Georgia facing off at 5 p.m. PT. The Lady Lions join in on the action when they play Cal State Northridge at 7:30 p.m. PT. The consolation and championship games will take place on Saturday.


By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
University Park, PA - The Lady Lions got out to a strong and fast start as they opened the season with two wins over the weekend. But the squad will get their first true test of the young season when they take their 2-0 record on the road to Knoxville to take on the Tennessee Lady Volunteers on Wednesday.

With the Lady Volunteers currently ranked in the top five nationally, head coach Coquese Washington is looking forward to the opportunity that her team has in front of them. With the chance to play against a team that will push them to play their best, Washington hopes her team enjoys the moment.

"I think it's a lot of fun to have these kind of games, these kind of opportunities, to come and to play at Tennessee, to play some of the teams we've played over the past few years," Washington said. "That's the fun part about playing this game; to go to Knoxville and have that opportunity, it's just a lot of fun and I know our kids are excited about it."

The last time the Lady Lions faced Tennessee was in the Sweet Sixteen of the 2003 NCAA Tournament, when Tennessee won 86-58. So while this will be the first time anyone on the team will be facing the Lady Volunteers, thanks to AAU basketball it won't be the first time many of the players will be facing each other on the court. Washington hopes that this familiarity will help eliminate any nerves her players may have before playing against a ranked opponent.

"They know each other [from] AAU and travel basketball, they've played against each other before, so they're familiar," Washington said. "They know each other, they text each other, so it's much different than it was a few years ago when you didn't know people. These kids have played against each other so there's a little bit of a familiarity there and it's just another game."

With the season still only being in its opening week, Washington and her staff don't have a lot of current game footage to go over and analyze leading into Wednesday's contest. But even with limited game tape, Washington knows that Tennessee will be a challenge on all fronts.

"Tennessee is really talented, they're really deep and they're a very athletic team in all positions," Washington said. "They've got good size, good speed, good athleticism, and they shoot the ball well so it's just a very talented team and they have pretty balanced scoring. Those kinds of things present challenges when you have a talented team, a deep team, and they get contributions from a number of people. So it's not just one person you look at and go 'oh, she's the key'; it's a full team effort with them."

Washington has high expectations for her team, namely being more aggressive and committing less turnovers, but the bottom line for her is to see them compete and play to the best of their ability. And playing against a team such as the Lady Volunteers, Washington is using this game as a gauge as to how Penn State will need to improve come tournament time.

"I just want to see us compete; I want to see us be able to execute the things that we're capable of executing," Washington said. "It's a great measuring stick for us early in the season to see where we need to be in March."

Penn State and Tennessee are set to meet Wednesday at the Thompson-Boling Arena. Tip is set for 8 p.m. ET.

11490906.jpeg By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer    

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - When the Lady Lions opened the season on Friday night against Holy Cross, senior Brianna Banks and junior Peyton Whitted both had career games, helping the team to a thrilling overtime 86-82 victory. 

 On Sunday against Fordham, the duo picked up right where they left off, leading the team to a 75-59 win over the Rams. Banks has been out to a fast start in her first season in a Lady Lion uniform. She scored 22 points against Fordham, two more than she had on Friday, and set a new career-high for herself. She also had a strong showing on defense, with two steals and a handful of blocked passes. 

Banks opened up the scoring for Penn State, although that didn't come until over halfway through the first quarter when the Lady Lions were in a 6-0 hole. But once that first shot fell, the Lady Lions came storming back, with Banks scoring four of the team's first 10 points to take the 10-8 lead. And then when the Lady Lions went on a run again late in the game, it was Banks who took over and led the way.

"That's what we want her to do, [we want her to be] that player that is the catalyst for the team and is that sparkplug when we need to stop a run or we need to get a run started," said head coach Coquese Washington. "She has to be ready to step up and make the big shots and take the big shots, and she doesn't have fear, so whether she makes or misses those shots, she's ready for the next one."

Banks credits her two high scoring games to her shooting the ball more, something she's started doing thanks to the insistence by her coaches.

"That's from my coach yelling at me to shoot, everyday; even outside of practice, she texts me to shoot more, so I have to give that to her," Banks said. "[Also], just creating plays on offense, not just for myself but for my teammates too."

Whitted had a quieter day against Fordham than she did against Holy Cross, but she still posted 11 rebounds, with seven coming in the first half, tying her career-high that she set on Friday. Washington sees Whitted doing the same thing in practice that she's doing in the game, and says her aggressiveness has been a huge factor in her getting to the board.

"She's being aggressive and pursuing the ball when it's shot, especially on the offensive end," Washington said. "In the fourth quarter she had a couple of big offensive rebounds and gave us some second possessions, which were big, and when I look at her stat line, she's doing what I had hoped she'd be able to do this year, which is just fill up the stat line.  11 rebounds, nine points, seven assists, she's all over the place and then I thought she did some good things defensively as well, so I'm really pleased with how she played today."

Senior Candice Agee had an impressive outing too, adding 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks to the mix. While Banks was the first to put the Lady Lions on the board, it was Agee that gave them the momentum to pull ahead.

"Candice Agee came on the floor and her presence was a big difference maker," Washington said. "We were able to exploit that, get some high-low looks, she got to the free throw line a little bit, so I thought her presence opened things up, and then we got a couple of baskets in transition and it just seemed like from there we had a lot more confidence in the rest of the half."

Penn State has a couple days off before they travel down to Knoxville, Tennessee to take on the Lady Volunteers on Wednesday. Tip is set for 8 p.m.


Sevillian Shines in Season-Opening Win

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11483628.jpegBy Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
In the second quarter of a tight opener for the Lady Lions, guard Keke Sevillian decided she wanted to make an impact off the bench.

The junior from Goodrich, Michigan stepped in front of a pass by a Holy Cross player and took it coast-to-coast for a right-handed layup. Then on the next possession, she did it again, this time intercepting a pass and finding Teniya Page on a bounce pass in the paint leading to a foul.

Sevillian wasn't done. She drew a charge on the following Holy Cross possession and forced a backcourt violation shortly after, contributing significantly to Penn State's 86-82 victory. She has earned her reputation as a defensive specialist on this year's team, and there has only been one regular season game played.

"She was key. She was huge," said head coach Coquese Washington. "She's a tremendous defensive player for us and brings tremendous energy, and a spark off the bench so she was huge and was out there in overtime and helped us lock down a bit more defensively."

Sevillian added seven points along with a rebound to go with the two steals, but her presence was felt far beyond the box score. Once guard Brianna Banks fouled out in overtime, Sevillian was there to come in and shut down the Crusaders, holding them to just 10 points in the overtime period.

Before Banks fouled out in overtime, she had herself a game, as well. Scoring 20 points and opening up driving lanes to the hoop all night long will certainly help her confidence moving forward.

"It was just something to get the team pumped up and ready to go," said Banks.

Peyton Whitted led the way with 22 points and 11 rebounds in the victory. Combining the offensive scorers like Whitted and Banks with the defensive specialists like Sevillian will help to form the complete team that Coach Washington wants to see throughout the season.

Penn State returns home on Sunday to meet Fordham at 2 p.m. in the BJC.

By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While a lot of attention has been on Penn State's freshman class this offseason, one of the biggest overlooked stories belongs to a member of the senior class. Candice Agee, one of just two seniors on the team, is prepping for her final season in a Lady Lion uniform.

Hailing from Victorville, California, Agee started her journey as a Lady Lion back in 2012 when she played in 26 games as a true freshman. Now, three years later, as the start of her last season inches near, she has a lot to look forward to.

"You'd think [my emotions] would be a little high, but right now I actually feel really good about it," Agee said. "I'm really confident in my team and we've been working really hard since the end of the season last year. I'm just a little anxious, excited and ready to get going."

Agee led the team in blocks last year with 53 (1.8 per game), and was second in rebounds with 176 (6.1 per game). But during the offseason, Agee worked hard to get better, focusing on her fundamentals to overall improve her game. And standing at 6-foot-6, she's worked on strengthening her lower body to help her compete.

"[I've been working] mostly on fundamentals and getting my base stronger," Agee said. "I've been working on a lot of leg strength because there's a couple of post players that are bigger than me in size, so being able to have that weight difference and still be able to have an affect on the game is really important so having a strong base and a strong core has been really important."

While Agee has been focusing on getting her base stronger, the biggest thing Washington has seen improvement on is her free throw. Agee finished last season with a .498 field goal percentage on 257 attempts, but head coach Coquese Washington thinks she can do even better this year.

"The thing that she's improved a little bit that I've seen so far this year is her free throws. If she can get to the free throw line a lot for us this year, I feel more confident about her ability to go there and knock them down," Washington said. "I'm really hoping that she can get to the free throw line more this year because I think those could be easy points for her," said  Washington. 

When talking about Agee, Washington compares her to former Lady Lion Talia East in terms of the type of senior year she had. East, who had a big improvement from her junior to senior year, graduated in 2014.

"I'm hoping that she can have the kind of senior year similar to what Talia East had when she was a senior a couple of years ago, where it just kind of all clicks together for her," Washington said. "Last year, Candice was one of the most consistent players on the team, so if we can get that same kind of consistency from her offensively I think she can have a fantastic senior year."

As for the comparison to East, Agee was a little taken back by it and wasn't shy to admit that the pressure is on now to live up to her coach's expectations. As for expectations of her own, she tries to keep them to a minimum.

"I try not to give myself too many expectations," Agee said. "I just feel like going hard and doing my very best and working towards the goals that all of us have set forth for ourselves, for our team. [We're] just doing what we need to do to have a better season than last year. It's just overall getting better and for our team to have cohesiveness on the court. 

The only senior on the roster to have played her whole career at Penn State, Agee knows a thing or two about how the show is run. As Washington said simply, "Candice knows," and with young post players looking up to and learning from her, she's stepped into the role of helping them adjust to college basketball.

"Candice has done a good job with the freshmen posts in terms of helping them understand what we're doing and how we're doing and reminding them of defensive rotations or things that we're doing on offense," Washington said. "She's been a good example for the freshmen posts so far."

With her experience with the team, Agee feels like she can lead. "I can give a lot of insight to things that are going on and getting the freshmen acclimated to our program and how we run Lady Lion basketball," Agee said.

"We like to think of it as on the court we're all leaders and we start by leading ourselves, that's how you lead everybody else, so just being a great teammate on the court and off the court just giving insight and answering any questions they need, because they know that I'm the one that's been here the longest," Agee said.

The younger post players are fully aware of the lessons they can learn from Agee, and have made sure to pay full attention to her in practice. Freshman Jaylen Williams has looked up to her from the start, and recognizes her as someone who can make her better.

"[Candice has been] really, really great. Basically what I do is mimic what her and Peyton [Whitted] do and usually it's the right thing so that's kind of how they help me on the court," Williams said. "But outside of the gym, anything I need I just know I can text them. They let me know that from the start, when I first got here, that anything I need I can call them or text them or anything and they'll be there for me." 

Agee has donned the blue and white for three impressive seasons, and if all goes according to plan, this will be the best one yet.

VIDEO: Lady Lion Pre-Season - Jaylen Williams

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks about the 2015-'16 women's hoops season with freshman forward Jaylen Williams. The Lady Lions open the season on Friday at 6 p.m. against Holy Cross.

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

VIDEO: Lady Lion Pre-Season - Brianna Banks

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks about the 2015-'16 women's hoops season with senior guard Brianna Banks. The Lady Lions open the season on Friday at 6 p.m. against Holy Cross.

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

VIDEO: Lady Lion Pre-Season - Candice Agee

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks about the 2015-'16 women's hoops season with senior center Candice Agee. The Lady Lions open the season on Friday at 6 p.m. against Holy Cross.

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

By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - There are some high expectations for the Lady Lion class of 2019, and with good reason. Head coach Coquese Washington and her staff brought in a Top 10 ranked recruiting class, with two players, Amari Carter and Teniya Page, ranked in the top 20 overall nationally. Carter and Page, along with Ashanti Thomas and Jaylen Williams, will provide a lot of young talent to a Lady Lion team that struggled last year.

Since arriving on campus in August, the four freshmen have been busy getting acclimated not only to college life, but also to life as a Division One student-athlete at a school as large as Penn State.

"It's just a lot to take in. Like any new environment, you have to get used to everything," said Carter, the number 16 recruit in the nation, hailing from Washington D.C. "It's a big campus, getting to know all your teammates, and all your professors, getting acclimated with classes and college life." 

Williams, from Easton, Massachusetts and the number 17 ranked post player nationally, agreed, but also noted that her teammates and other members of the basketball program have made a big difference in the transition to campus. 

"It's been hard but my teammates have really helped me with that, so I'm never alone. I have my great teammates, [and] there's just really a whole lot of people that are there with me," Williams said.

The highly touted freshmen class will be an important part of Penn State's season, as they work to improve upon last year's "rebuilding" season. The group brings a new wave of energy to the team that has not gone unnoticed by the veteran players. Junior Kaliyah Mitchell has been impressed with how dedicated they are to getting better outside of practice.

"They come to practice every day ready to work, they always have positive energy, positive attitudes, always looking to get better. They always stay after practice and see if someone wants to shoot with them, so I think that they came in with a lot of effort and I think they'll do [well] this year," Mitchell said.

Washington shared a similar sentiment, and has been impressed with how well the freshmen have taken to new things and how much information they've absorbed in their short time with the team. She also added that there isn't much they as coaches can do before preseason practice starts to prepare the freshmen for the changes they'll see from high school to college.

"We just throw them in the deep end and tell them sink or swim. It's an adjustment; there's not a lot you can do in high school to prepare for college. It's just going to be different," Washington said. "So the thing we try to get them to do most and first is be open to new things, be open to doing things differently and be open to messing up and to making mistakes and learning and growing from it. 

"The freshmen were sponges [when they first started] and they still are; they've been sponges since they walked on campus. I think when you have that kind of approach and attitude it makes it easier to develop the kind of chemistry that we're seeing so far."

The biggest adjustment that the freshmen have had to make has been the pace of the game, which is much faster in college than in high school. This includes an increase in conditioning in order to maintain the speed of the game going on around them.

For Williams, she'll be relying on her speed more than she did in high school, and with the increased pace she "can't take breaks, there's no plays off, there's nothing like that, I have to work hard every minute that I'm in the game."

The physicality of the game is another aspect that is much different in college. With bigger girls on a college court than a high school one, the game can get much more physical than what the new players are used to. Chicago-native Page said that along with getting used to playing a more physical game, consistency will be key to a successful season.

"We're playing a lot faster than I played in high school so in the game, I'm going to play fast [and] the team's going to play fast," Page said. "Adjusting to the physicality of the game [has been a big change], and just trying to consistently play at the same pace the whole time." 

Page was rated among the nation's premier point guards by all five of the recruiting services, so her presence will give the Lady Lions another leader on the court next to returning point guard Lindsey Spann. After the exhibition game against California (Pa.), Spann commented on how working with two point guards was beneficial to the team.

"We both see a lot of the same things and we're just executing what coach wants us to do and basically playing our roles, feeding off each other. With two point guards out there, I think it's fun," Spann said.

As the first official game of the season quickly approaches, all four girls are excited to get their first taste of playing in the Bryce Jordan Center with their new team. 

"The fans, and playing in the big arena, that's the biggest thing I'm looking forward to," Carter said. "But also just playing on a different team with new faces."

"I'm looking forward to playing with my team. We've all worked so hard together and I feel like we've come pretty far," said Thomas, who, as the number 96 overall prospect, has high expectations from Washington on both ends of the floor at post.

"Ashanti's really tough, she's a tough kid, she's got that physical edge to her where she doesn't mind mixing it up in there," Washington said. "I think she's going to be impactful on both ends of the floor. She's able to score, she rebounds, she defends, and she blocks shots."

The class of 2019 will officially make their collegiate debut on Nov. 13 against Holy Cross at the Bryce Jordan Center. Tip is set for 6 p.m.

VIDEO: Lady Lion Pre-Season - Lindsey Spann

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks about the 2015-'16 women's hoops season with sophomore guard Lindsey Spann. The Lady Lions open the season on Nov. 13 against Holy Cross (6 p.m.).

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