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Lady Lions Focused on Finishing Strong

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10827462.jpegBy Gabby Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Two of the best guards in the country on one team make for one interesting, unpredictable Big Ten matchup. With a 20-plus points per game average between them, the Lady Lions knew they needed to work hard to contain the scoring power of Ohio State's Ameryst Alston and Kelsey Mitchell.

"I think they're two of the best guards in our conference," head coach Coquese Washington said. "Kelsey's [Mitchell] leading the nation in scoring and Amersyt [Alston] is third in our conference in scoring so they're very talented. Any time you have five people in double figures you probably have a chance to win the game. Those other players, they do a great job of playing off of [Ameryst] Alston and [Kelsey] Mitchell. Mitchell is really good at creating for herself and creating for her teammates so she's a tough cover."

The Lady Lions were the first to put points on the board, but trailed by six heading into the half, with the Buckeyes up 36-30. The pace of the game picked in the second half. The Lady Lions battled, but the Buckeyes pulled away late for an 88-70 victory.

Several Lions contributed to the team's offensive outing, including Sierra Moore and Candice Agee. Moore, who has been solid for the Lady Lions from both inside the paint and the three-point line, put up 18 points, tallying her 19th double-digit scoring outing this season.

"Sierra definitely showed a lot of fight," Washington said. "Sometimes you look up at the score board and it can be tough emotionally to play through when you're down. I thought Sierra [Moore], Tori [Waldner], Candice [Agee], and Keke [Sevillian] just kept fighting and we were able to cut the lead back to nine points, but it was a little too much. I think those three turnovers to start the half gave them a cushion that they were able to play with for the rest of the game. I did think our kids kept fighting and that was certainly led by Sierra's effort."

Agee was the most impactful against the Buckeyes, delivering both offensively and defensively in the pursuit. She not only put up 15 points, but grabbed 10 rebounds, too. But Agee was equally as effective defense, blocking two for the Lady Lions, marking her 13th-straight game with at least one swat. All season, various coaches have referenced Agee's size, and how they have to coach to her height. In the matchup against the Buckeyes, Agee was paired with another player who is relatively close in height.

"Sometimes it can be easier for tall [post players] to play against other tall [post players] than it is to play against smaller players," Washington said. I thought Candice [Agee] was aggressive and looking for her shot tonight. I thought she was working hard to get touches and Tori [Walder], in particular, did a good job of getting her touches. [Candice] did a good job getting to the free throw line tonight and converting. Getting a double-double against [Lisa] Blair and [Alexa] Hart, and they're sandwiching her and being physical, trying not to let her get position, is good. I thought she did a good job trying to have a presence in the middle and be a force."


Looking Ahead
The Lady Lions welcome the Wisconsin Badgers to the Jordan Center on Sunday for the ninth-annual Pink Zone game. This game, which honors breast cancer survivors and draws awareness to the disease that claims thousands each year, will also be the last regular season game. The Lady Lions begin Big Ten Tournament play March 4.

"As the head coach for this program, we talk about each season being its own experience," Washington said. "You have to take that experience for what it is. So coming into this season, we knew it was going to be a transition year and we knew that there was going to be a lot of growth and a lot of learning. That's what we've focused on from day one, but that's who we are as a program. Even when we're playing very well and winning championships, we focused on growing and getting better and learning lessons that will help us play our best basketball at the end of the season; whatever that looks like." 

Lady Lions Use Previous Matchup as Confidence Boost Against Ohio State

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State Lady Lions (6-21, 3-13) have just two home games left before the Big Ten tournament next week in Hoffman Estates, Ill. First up, a surging Ohio State (19-9, 11-5) team Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Buckeyes have won eight of their last 10 contests and features two of the conference's most lethal scorers.

Freshman Kelsey Mitchell and junior Ameryst Alston lead the way for the Buckeyes averaging 24.6 and 20.4 points per game respectively. 

"They usually play with four guards on the floor and those four guards are usually pretty explosive," head coach Coquese Washington said. "It starts with Kelsey Mitchell. I don't think you can stop her but trying to slow her down is definitely something you have to be mindful of when you play Ohio State."

Penn State and Ohio State met on Jan. 18 in Columbus where the Buckeyes sealed a late lead to get the victory at home 69-60. Ohio State's Mitchell and Alston had 21 and 18 in that game, shooting 14-for-35 from the field.

Lady Lion assistant coach Itoro Coleman said she thought Penn State did a good job of forcing Ohio State into taking tough contested shots in that contest.

"We did a good job at their place at really make them shoot contested shots," Coleman said. "(Mitchell and Alston) lead their team in attempts so they are going to get a lot of shots up, we just want to make sure they are contested." 

Coleman attributed the late lost to Penn State's inability to secure offensive rebounds in the final four minutes. In the second time around though, the Lady Lions do have confidence after taking Ohio State down to the wire on the road.

"We definitely have confidence," Coleman said. "They're going to put up a lot of shots, its big we make sure we limit their second chance opportunities and get a lot of points out of our transition." 

Penn State will have the benefit of having a home crowd Thursday against Ohio State at 7 p.m. and Sunday against Wisconsin at 2 p.m. Even on their home floor, though, it's still one game at a time for the Lady Lions.

"We love playing at the BJC, our fans are great," Coleman said. "We always approach it one game at a time. Right now our concentration is on Ohio State and finishing here at the BJC strong."


Lady Lions Ready for Busy Slate of Big Ten Matchups

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By Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - This season was going to be a test for the young Lady Lions basketball team, a realization both the coaching staff and team made early on. But, their inexperience wasn't going to define them, as they keep getting better every week, working harder day in and day out.

Over the course of the next seven days, the Lady Lions will play three games against Big Ten opponents, opening the slate on the road against Maryland Monday at 7 p.m. (BTN).

"You have to be able to make adjustments," head coach Coquese Washington said. "We have to make sure what we are doing in practice is transitions well on the court. We have to make sure we have the legs to get through this week."

Building On Last Matchup With The Terrapins
After leading by as much as seven in the first half of the initial meeting between the two teams, the Lady Lions knew they could compete with Maryland. The Terps surged towards the latter stages of the first half, but the Lions had confidence despite being down 41-24 at the break on Feb. 5. By adjusting to the Terrapin pace on the court and their press, Penn State played a strong second half, outscoring the Terps, 38-36 in the final 20 minutes.

"Maryland is an up tempo team and so are we," assistant coach Kia Damon said. "We got off to a great start last time, then things kind of got away from us. We want to start the game off the way we finished it and we will see what happens from there."

The 'Moore,' The Merrier
Redshirt sophomore guard Sierra Moore has had a stellar run the past few games, holding onto the ball and helping with shot set up. The Duke transfer has been an asset to the Lady Lions on both ends of the court. In last week's matchup against Minnesota, Moore led the team in scoring with 17 points, tallying eight assists and no turnovers.

"I think I have matured a lot this season," Moore said. "I think I am getting better at finding the girls and getting them the shots they want."

B1G Time Hoops
ESPN's postseason projections from Feb. 17 had seven of the 14 Big Ten women's hoops teams earning a spot in the bracket. That being said, Coach Washington appreciates the talent this conference presents on a nightly basis for the Lady Lions.

"The Big Ten is a competitive conference," Washington said. "Each team we play against has depth and talent. The coaches in the Big Ten really know how to use their personnel. That is what makes this conference so great."

Looking Ahead
The Lady Lions are in Maryland on Monday, before coming back to the Bryce Jordan Center to finish off the regular season. Penn State welcomes Ohio State on Thursday and Wisconsin on Sunday, marking a span of three games in seven days.

Lady Lions Game Blog vs. Minnesota

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live, interactive coverage of the 2014-'15 women's basketball season. Today, the Lady Lions face off with Minnesota.

Live Blog LIVE BLOG: Lady Lions Host Minnesota
 

Lady Lions Mount Near Comeback

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In a competitive battle at the Bryce Jordan Center Wednesday, Penn State and Michigan State featured a classic game of runs. The Spartans jumped out to a 14-3 lead with 15:29 to go in the first half. Then, a little more than four minutes later, their lead was just three at 17-14.

That trend would continue all the way through the end of the first half as Michigan State took a 43-32 lead into halftime. The Lady Lions, consistent with the beginning of the first half, did not go away quietly in the game's final 20 minutes.

Penn State was down by as much as 51-38 four minutes into the second half before going on a 19-6 run to tie the game at 57 at the 9:45 mark.

"One of the things that was working was our transition game," head coach Coquese Washington said. "We were getting out in transition. Keke Sevillian hit the three [to tie the game] in transition. Lindsey Spann was attaching the rim in transition and Sierra Moore got a couple of transition baskets. I think we went inside to Candice Agee a couple of times, as well, and got some paint touches. We were getting stops and going down in transition and taking advantage of that."

After tying the game, the Lady Lions went toe-to-toe with Michigan State in the final minutes, falling a few possessions short of an impressive comeback, 74-67.

Washington said that her team has a lot to learn from Wednesday's game. With a quick turnaround, as the Lady Lions host Minnesota Sunday at the BJC, Washington evaluated what her team will focus on between now and Sunday.

"There are some things we have to improve upon between now and Sunday," Washington said. "We have to take some steps to close out games and be able to play with a little more intelligence down the stretch in close games. We have to take advantage of opportunities that come our way, whether those are free throws, transition opportunities, layups or loose balls. We have to be more consistent in how we finish games."

Penn State and Minnesota tip at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday.

VIDEO: Lady Lions Continuing to Build

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After securing their first road win of the season, the Penn State Lady Lions (6-18, 3-10) return home Wednesday to the Bryce Jordan Center to face Michigan State (11-13, 3-10).

Penn State had been playing better basketball each game prior to Sunday's win, one that gives the team some confidence moving forward.

"It gives the girls confidence anytime you can go in conference and win on the road because they're hard to come by," assistant coach Kia Damon said. "You have to be excited, you have to build that momentum that you gathered form that game and try to spin it into the next game."

Much of the reason why the team has been able to improve is because of the added contributions the Lady Lions have received from multiple players in multiple roles. Head coach Coquese Washington has said all season long that her team will get better as more players continue to get involved.

It's been an ongoing progression for Washington's squad and each game a new player seems to step up. Against Purdue it was Alex Harris. The sophomore forward contributed not in the scoring column, but with rebounds and blocks. Her 13 rebounds and four blocks set a career high in both categories.

Harris has been able to pair with center Candice Agee to continue to build a formidable inside presence for Penn State.

"(Harris) is a rebounding machine and her athleticism in the post is a really positive feature for us to have," Washington said. "When she comes into the game she always makes an impact on the defensive end and rebounding and allowing us to get out in transition. We need her defensive prowess and her rebounding when she comes into the game."

Penn State will look to continue to get contributions from many Lady Lions in an effort to match the dynamic scoring duo the Spartans boast in Aerial Powers and Tori Jankoska. Powers averages 22.4 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists. per game. Jankoska adds to her efforts with 16.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists per contest.

"Powers is a fantastic player and she can put points up in a hurry and it a variety of ways," Washington said. "She's shooting the three much better this year than she did last year which is an added dimension to her game. Jankoska is playing very well off of her so with those two together it's a very potent back court right now for Michigan State."

The key for Penn State will be preventing Powers and Jankoska from getting comfortable and in a groove early. The difficult part, according to Damon, will be doing that for 40 full minutes. The Spartans and Lady Lions tip at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday at the Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State stays at home Sunday as they host Minnesota at 2:00 p.m.

Strong Second Half Not Enough For Lady Lions

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10754461.jpegBy Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When the Lady Lions took the floor against No. 5 Maryland, the Terrapins' position in the Big Ten standings was the last thing Penn State was thinking about. With a series of two road-losses behind them, the Lady Lions were ready to be back in the Bryce Jordan Center.

The first 10 minutes of the game were exciting for anyone in the crowd when Penn State was able to hold Maryland to just 10 points. It wasn't until the Terrapins switched from man defense to zone that they were able to fuel a rally.

"It took a while to adjust to Penn State's size," Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. "They are huge, strong and aggressive. It wasn't until we switched up our defense that we were able to make a good run."

The Lady Lions finished the first half trailing the Terrapins, 41-24. Despite the deficit, Penn State was able to hold their own in the second half, out-scoring the Terps, 38-36, in the second half.

"I felt like the beginning of the game was just good basketball and then we hit one of our stretches where we struggled to make shots," Penn State head coach Coquese Washington said. "Uncharacteristically for us, we didn't get it [shot making] back. We've done a much better job of [limiting scoring droughts] over the past few games and in those games if we weren't scoring our defense was pretty good. Tonight, when we hit that stretch where we weren't scoring, we let it affect us on the other end of the floor, as well."

Freshman Lindsey Spann had another impressive night. She recorded her 19th double-digit performance, scoring 18 points for the Lady Lions. Sophomore Sierra Moore put up 15 and junior Candice Agee put up 10, as well.

"I'd like to see more consistency from our team," Washington said. "I'd like to see more consistency on both ends of the floor. We didn't have the level of consistency that we've had these past few games with the attention to detail and execution that we need to have to be competitive. We didn't do the little things that would have enabled us to be in the game and to give ourselves a chance to win down the stretch."

The Lady Lions head to Purdue on Sunday. 

Lady Lions Set for Tough Home Test

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State (5-17, 2-9) is back at the Bryce Jordan Center Thursday night, this time with perhaps its toughest test of the season. No. 5 Maryland (19-2, 10-0) heads into Happy Valley on a 13-game winning streak.

The Lady Lions have been playing better as of late going 2-2 in its last four seeing improved production across the board on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

Sophomore's Kaliyah Mitchell and Peyton Whitted have led the charge in recent games. Whitted is averaging 12.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in her last four contests and Mitchell has tallied two straight double-doubles.

Pair that with the scoring of Lindsey Spann, Sierra Moore and Candice Agee and the Lady Lions have a formidable balanced scoring attack.

"That makes us a better team when we have balance. That way the opposition can't key in on one or two people and then kind of stifle your offense or change some of the things you are doing defensively," assistant coach Kia Damon said. "So, the more we present with the inside and outside game and have multiple guards and multiple posts scoring that makes us more successful."

More scorers will give Penn State a better chance to win against a Maryland team that averages 83.7 points per game shooting nearly 50 percent from the field on the season. The Terrapins feature a high paced offensive led by Laurin Mincy's 14.1 points per game.

A lot of Maryland's points come from transition, which was easy to spot for Damon when scouting the top five team in the country.

"They do a great job of taking live ball turnovers and missed shots and turning those into points. When they settle into the half court offense they have five weapons on the floor so they put a lot of stress on your defense," Damon said.

Tip is set for 7 p.m. from the Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State leads the all-time series 14-8 and is 8-2 all-time at home against Maryland.

Chemistry and Hard Work: Two Keys For Success at Minnesota

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By Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Coming off back-to-back Big Ten victories, the Lady Lions (5-15, 2-7 Big Ten) are looking to build on their momentum as they face-off against Minnesota, tonight. Head coach Coquese Washington is confident that the energy her team has had both in games and in practice will transition well on the road.

"We have had a good week," Washington said. "There have definitely been a lot more smiles and the girls are feeling more confident."

It is obvious that the young Lady Lions are becoming more confident due to their increased understanding of their roles on the court. Penn State's bench play has improved, as well, especially when looking at Alex Harris' performance against Northwestern. The sophomore tallied 11 points and 10 rebounds, solidifying her first career double-double. Peyton Whitted also scored double-figures off the bench against Northwestern (11).

"The game is slowing down for them," Washington said. "They aren't thinking as much, they are just playing. They have been able to slow down the game because they are becoming more comfortable with this level of play and are now able to predict or anticipate the next play."

The Gophers enter tonight's game with a 16-4 overall mark a 5-3 record in Big Ten play. The numbers aren't intimidating for this young team, as they have improved game in and game out so far this season.


"They play hard," assistant coach Jocelyn Wyatt said. "Our strength is our team chemistry. Our girls fight hard for each other and for Coquese [Washington]. I think we have a lot of confidence heading into this game, so we are going to take advantage of that and get it done on the boards."

At the beginning of the season, coach Washington said that she "was still getting to know the team." This being her first year coaching most of the Lady Lion roster in game situations, she, just as much as them, was getting to know the way they play and adjust to collegiate basketball.


"I wouldn't say I know them pretty well, but I know them better," Washington said. "As a coaching staff, I think, we are able to get a little more out of them because we know how they react to different things. We know how to coach them better so that they are able to perform at their best."

The Lady Lions take on the Gophers at Minnesota tonight at 8 pm. Fans can watch the Big Ten match up on BTN Plus. 

Lady Lions Balanced Attack Makes It Two Straight

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the second time in four days, the Penn State Lady Lions closed out a close Big Ten contest and turned victorious on their home floor. Head coach Coquese Washington said after Sunday's 76-75 over Northwestern that just a few weeks ago, her team would not have been ready for such a task.

Now after following the process and progressing every day, her team is now able to close out tight games and get in better positions to win.

"Earlier in the season we weren't able to close these games out," Washington said. "We didn't have the necessary confidence, the necessary chemistry and cohesiveness to do it. Now I think we're at a point in the season where we kind of know what we need to do to close teams out."

Sunday they had that confidence, even when it looked like the Wildcats had a chance to win. In the final moments of the game, Northwestern had the ball down by one point with 8.4 seconds left and Washington's team found a way to make a stop.

"We've come a long way," guard Sierra Moore said. "At the beginning of the season, we had a lot of really close games and we were just short every time. Now, you can tell that we have grown so much and are playing basketball like we knew we could all along.

The reason why we are closing out game and the reason why we won the game today, is because of how much we have grown and how much more mature we are now."

Just like Thursday's win over Indiana, Penn State had five players in double figures and posed a balanced scoring attack. Moore, Alex Harris, Peyton Whitted, Kaliyah Mitchell and Candice Agee had 18, 11, 11, 10 and 10 respectively leading to the win.

For Moore, who has had 15 points or more in the last three games, having multiple scorers makes establishing an offensive rhythm much easier.

"It is so much easier to do what we want to do when everybody is incorporated in the offense," Moore said. "It really helps to take stress off of each individual and we can just play our game. We can relax a little bit because we know everybody is clicking, so whoever gets the ball on that second or third pass, they have the ability to score and we have confidence that they are going to make it."

Harris was an added piece to the Lady Lion scoring attack Sunday, garnering her first career double-double and setting a new career high with 11 points. Harris added to the Lady Lion post play both on defense and offense with very efficient play.

It was a performance she has been waiting for all season long.

"It felt really good," Harris said of her career day. "I wanted to go out there and just do anything I could to help the team win. I relied on my teammates to set up the offense and get me opportunities to score. I just wanted to do everything I could out there [to help us win.]"

Her 10 rebounds, including a rebound of Northwestern's game winning shot attempt, helped seal the inside for Penn State, who out rebounded the wildcats 49 to 32. From the rebounding advantage, the Lady Lions were able to do what they love to do the most: run in transition.

Penn State had 46 points in the paint, 13 second chance points and 17 off the fast break. Washington believes these numbers cause the balanced scoring attack that occurred the last two games.

"A lot of it stems from the offensive production, stems from us being a lot more aggressive and a lot more assertive, in particular in transition but also in rebounding," said Washington. "We're doing a good job crashing the offensive glass and giving ourselves second and third opportunities."

Penn State will be back in action at Minnesota Wednesday at 8 p.m.

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