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Edwards a Versatile Threat for Lady Lions

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By Mike Esse, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - During the preseason and the early non-conference season, it was unknown who would team up with 2013 Big Ten Player of the Year Maggie Lucas to lead the Lady Lion scoring, although all signs pointed toward it being Ariel Edwards.

Edwards-Ariel (4).jpegSigns no more. Now, it is simply factual. Ariel Edwards can be and will be a viable scoring threat in her senior season at Penn State. Through 13 games, Edwards is second on the team in scoring averaging 13.5 points per game and adds 4.5 rebounds per contest.

Her versatility on the floor has created a new dimension for the Lady Lions and more importantly, according to her head coach, it has created stability.

"The confidence that she [Ariel] is playing with is really helping to stabilize the team so far this year," said head coach Coquese Washington. "She is playing more decisively. When she is aggressive and assertive and decisive she is pretty tough to stop."

The 6-foot-3 senior forward can play either guard position, defend at a high level, score and get rebounds and has been able to do all of those things at almost any given moment during the 2013-14 season.

"It helps me be more effective," Edwards said. "If we are playing a smaller team I can play power forward. If we are playing a bigger team I can play my more natural position, which is small forward."

With a true point guard in Dara Taylor and a lethal shooting guard in Maggie Lucas, Edwards knows the importance of her being versatile on a consistent basis, which is finally becoming a reality.

"It's something that my team needs from me," Edwards said of her versatility and consistency.

Edwards has been able to step up in on multiple occasions for Penn State this season cementing herself as a scoring leader for the back-to-back Big Ten regular season champions. Take the Lady Lions' 66-58 win over then-No. 20/24 Texas A&M.

The Aggies, along with anyone with knowledge of women's college basketball, knew Maggie Lucas was going to get her fair share of points and she did. What may have been the difference though was that Edwards backed up Lucas' 26-point performance with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists.

A few days prior to the win over Texas A&M, Penn State was down, 55-35, at the half on the road against South Dakota State. Edwards led the way in the second half with 16 points, four rebounds and two assists as the Lady Lions nearly erased the 20-point deficit before falling, 83-79.

Edwards has gone from a consistency question to a stable and able option. Position coach Kia Damon believes Edwards has been able to turn the corner because of her growth mentally as well as physically.

"Ariel has always been a very talented player, but what you are seeing this year is that she is putting together the mental aspect with her physical talents," said Damon. "That [the new mentality] has helped her to remain calm in every situation on the court."

Washington agrees. The physical talent and skill was always there, it was a matter of taking the mental approach and making the two work hand-in-hand. That has been able to happen because of her experiences in her first three seasons at Penn State.

"It's been a four-year progression for Ariel," Washington said. "She spends a tremendous amount of time in the gym before practice and after practice working on ball handling, defense and shooting. It's been a gradual growth for her and it's all coming together in terms of her confidence and decision making."

Edwards and Penn State travel to Champaign, Ill. on Thursday, Jan. 9 to take on Illinois at 9 p.m. before their Big Ten home opener on Sunday against Purdue at 3 p.m.



What To Watch: Penn State at Illinois

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 15/14 Penn State women's basketball team will play their second straight road game to open Big Ten play on Thursday, Jan. 9 at Illinois. The Lady Lions (10-3, 1-0) will travel to play the Fighting Illini (7-7, 0-1) in a 9 p.m. contest that will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

GAME NOTES: at Illinois

Penn State claimed both meetings between the two programs last season, winning the second meeting, 95-62, on Feb. 20 at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Lady Lions will be looking to even their record at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Ill., entering the game with a 9-10 overall mark in games played on the Illini's home floor.

Pregame Reading
What To Watch For - Penn State

Advancing the Streak: Penn State will look improve to 2-0 in conference play for the 11th time in school history and in the process move their winning streak to seven games vs. Illinois. The 2-0 start would mark the second straight season that Penn State has begun the conference slate with consecutive victories.

East's a Shining Senior: There is something about being a senior. Your final season brings the ability to apply lessons learned, listen to coaching and truly understand that your time in college is short. Senior Talia East is making the most of her final season in the blue and white, averaging 6.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. The Philadelphia native notched her first career double-double on Sunday at Iowa pouring in 10 points and collecting 10 rebounds.

Success at Charity Stripe: Penn State is making the most of their opportunities for free points. In 13 games this season, Penn State is averaging nearly 20 made free throws per game (19.7) and are connecting on almost 80 percent of their shots from the charity stripe. Senior Maggie Lucas leads that charge, making 83-of-86 shots (96.5%), which ranks second in the NCAA.

What To Watch For - Illinois

Solid Shooting: Illinois has shot over 39 percent from the field eight times in 2013-14 and owns a 7-1 record in those games. Their only loss was in a 98-92 decision vs. Bradley in the season opener. That stat will be tested on Thursday vs. Penn State, though. The Lady Lions have only allowed two opponents (UConn & Iowa) to shoot above 37 percent from the field in a game.

Going for the Steal: I basketball, unlike your everyday life, theft is legal and forcing turnovers is a huge part of the Illini's game. Illinois currently leads the Big Ten in the steals per game (11.9), which ranks them 13th in the NCAA. Jacqui Grant and Amber Moore both average 2.0 steals per game, while Ivory Crawford collects 1.8 swipes per contest. Overall, Illinois is forcing nearly 23 turnovers per game.

Moore From Behind the Arc: Redshirt senior Amber Moore is one of two active players in the Big Ten with 250 made three pointers and 700 three point attempts. Moore and Penn State's Maggie Lucas both rank among the Big Ten leaders in each category. Moore ranks sixth on both charts with 255 made three pointers and 727 attempts, while Lucas has drained 319 three points on 756 attempts, sitting second and third, respectively.

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Lady Lions Use Height Advantage To Down Hawkeyes

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By Tyler Feldman, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - All week head coach Coquese Washington had discussed the difficulty of playing on the road and the type of team it would be for her team at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. However, thanks to a height advantage, the No. 17/15 Lady Lions (10-3, 1-0) were victorious over the No. 23/22 Hawkeyes (12-4, 0-1), 87-71.

Waldner-Tori.jpeg"This is a tough place to play," said Washington after the game. "Iowa gets great fan support. It was loud in there. They are a very high-powered offensive team, so for us to come in here and perform the way we did, I am pleased with that."

Due to Penn State's height advantage, the Lady Lions dominated every inch within the paint, outrebounding the Hawkeyes, 50-34.

The substantial difference in the rebounding category allowed the Lady Lions to encounter a surplus of second-chance points, scoring 16 and allowing just one, and resulted in Penn State's 38-32 edge in point in the paint.

"I thought we did have a big advantage there [inside]," said Washington. "I thought our size, especially on the backboard, allowed us to get some good second chance opportunities."

Senior Talia East compiled her very first career double-double by tallying 10 rebounds and 10 points to lead the way for the Blue and White. She connected on 4-of-6 shots from the field and added one block and one assist in 21 minutes.

Additionally, a trio of Lady Lions also performed well inside. Junior Tori Waldner tallied 10 points and eight rebounds, adding one block to extend her streak of games with at least one block to 12. Dynamic freshmen Kaliyah Mitchell and Peyton Whitted combined for 12 points and 12 rebounds off the bench.

"We had some really good contributions from a lot of players on our team," said Washington. "We got into a little bit of foul trouble in the first half, and I thought our bench came in and our freshmen stepped up coming off the bench. They [the freshmen] gave us some big minutes and made some big plays. I was really pleased with the contributions that we got."

Even senior Dara Taylor got into the action down low. The quick-footed guard notched five rebounds to go along with her 17 points and four assists.

"Also, I would say Dara Taylor was a big part of today's win," said Washington. "She made a couple of great transition, coast-to-coast plays, and those kept us in the game, as well."

Although not part of the effort inside, it is important to note that senior Maggie Lucas led the offense with 27 points on 8-of-20 shooting. The 27 points moved Lucas into 12th place on the Big Ten all-time careering scoring list and included a 7-of-8 effort from the free throw line.

To open the Big Ten regular season with a challenging road win over a ranked opponent is just what this Lady Lions team needed as they get set to chase their third-straight Big Ten regular season title. With the win the Lady Lions are now 13-9 in Big Ten season openers and Big Ten road openers.

The Lady Lions will look to stretch their four game winning streak to five when they play Thursday, Jan. 9 at 9 p.m. in Champaign, Ill., against Big Ten foe Illinois.



What To Watch: Penn State vs. Iowa

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After finishing a tough non-conference schedule that featured three ranked opponents with a strong 9-3 record, No. 17/15 Penn State (9-3, 0-0) will head to Iowa City to open Big Ten play against No. 23/22 (12-3, 0-1) Iowa Sunday at 3 p.m.

Iowa has entered the Associated Press and USA Today top 25 polls, but is coming off an 86-84 loss in its conference opener at Indiana on Jan. 2. Penn State will return to action for the first time since its 70-56 win over Hartford on Dec. 29.

Pregame Reading
What To Watch For - Penn State

Opening B1G: In the past five years Penn State is 4-1 in Big Ten season openers, with its only loss coming in 2011-12 when Nebraska topped the Lady Lions 71-63 in Lincoln. That 4-1 record includes a 77-73 overtime Penn State win against Iowa to open the 2009-10 conference schedule.

Road Block: Scoring inside hasn't come easy for Lady Lion opponents this season. Penn State has 70 blocks and averages 5.9 blocks per game through 12 games in the 2013-14 campaign, ranking 11th in NCAA Division I and second in the Big Ten behind Northwestern. Post players Talia East and Tori Waldner have led the way blocking shots as both players have moved inside the Top 20 in program history in career blocks.

Balancing Act: Six Lady Lions had five or more points in the final non-conference game of the season against Hartford. Scoring leaders Maggie Lucas and Ariel Edwards continued their torrid scoring output with 18 and 15 points respectively. Dara Taylor, Tori Waldner, Kaliyah Mitchell and Peyton Whitted combined for 25 points to provide multiple scoring options for Penn State. The Lady Lions have only lost once this season when six or more players have tallied more than five points.

What To Watch For - Iowa

Lethal Logic: Hawkeye junior guard Samantha Logic is the X-factor for Iowa as she leads the team in scoring (14.9), rebounds (6.7), assists (6.6) and steals (1.8). Logic has performed at a high level against top opponents this season scoring 26 points against current No. 14/12 Colorado and 14 points against current No. 24/22 Syracuse.

Supporting Cast: Logic isn't the only Hawkeye that can light up the scoring column, as juniors Melissa Dixon and Bethany Doolittle average 14.8 and 13.9 points, respectively. The guard-center combo proved they could score against the best with 32 combined points against Syracuse in a 97-91 win.

Taming The Lady Lions: Iowa hasn't beaten Penn State since the 2009-10 season when the Hawkeyes topped Penn State, 82-75, in the Big Ten Tournament. Additionally, despite an 11-8 record at home against the Lady Lions, Iowa is 0-3 in the last three matchups at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Penn State has fared well away from home this season with a 3-1 record. Iowa went 8-0 in Iowa City in non-conference play.




Lady Lions Have Defensive State of Mind

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By Tyler Feldman, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Penn State Lady Lions (9-3) prepare for their Big Ten conference regular season opener against Iowa (12-3) on the road tomorrow, let's take a moment to examine how dazzling Coquese Washington's Lady Lions have performed on the defensive side of the ball thus far this season.

Waldner-Tori.jpegThrough 12 games the Lady Lions are on pace to break a handful of defensive-related school records. Currently, the record for lowest opponent field goal percentage in a season is .358 set during the 2011-12 season. However, this year's squad is on pace to shatter that record, holding their opponents to a paltry .341 shooting percentage through 12 games.

"Our size has been helpful for us and has allowed us to mix it up defensively," said Washington. "We have been able to play a little bit more zone than we've played in years past. That's helped us contest more shots and make people take some tougher shots. I think our size and the fact that we can play a little zone both have something to do with it [defensive success]."

Size down low certainly creates problems for the opposition, but having athletic bigs has allowed Washington to explore several different defensive looks. Having options while not handling the ball has allowed this Lady Lions team to consistently catch their opponents off-guard.

Speaking of an athletic frontcourt, junior Tori Waldner and senior Talia East have been the two driving forces in charge of fueling this defensive state of mind. Not only have they provided constant defensive sparks with their shot-blocking abilities, but they have also dispensed their experience onto the freshmen players.

"Tori and Talia have both been pretty effective at blocking shots, contesting shots and especially creating second chance opportunities when we're on offense," said Washington. "Their contributions on the defensive end have been really important and key for us this year."

Both East and Waldner rank among the school leaders in blocking shots, with Waldner blocking at least one shot in each the last 11 games.

The duo has acted as twin towers in the lane this season. East is now sitting in 15th place in school history with 72 blocks, while Waldner is tied for 16th place with 68 swats in three seasons.

It is safe to say that the occasional transition from man-to-man to zone has aided the high block tallies and strong defensive numbers.

What zone allows Washington to expose are the opponents' offensive weaknesses. Zone restricts the opposition in a couple of ways. First, it makes scoring easy layups inside very difficult. Second, the zone slows down the pace of the game and allows the defense, not the offense, to control the tempo.

And, when the opposition beats the zone with timely passing and strong perimeter shooting, Washington has strong guard play to transition back and confuse the opposing offense.

Among the Lady Lions' success on defense is the fact that no team has shot better than 45% this season. The only team to shoot better than 40% was top-ranked UConn, which connected on 43.9% of its shots.

A key to holding opponents to such a low percentage from the field circles around the leadership of the seniors on this young team

"[The seniors] are really good at helping [the freshmen] understand perspective, especially with the conference teams," said Washington. "They help provide the context that the freshmen need."

Although Washington noted the importance of the talented freshmen gaining "perspective" from the seniors, she stressed that it is up to each individual player to learn from each and every conference game.

"There's nothing like experience," said Washington. "I heard all these stories about how beautiful the Eifel Tower was, but when I went and saw it for myself it was a much different experience."

What Washington means is the seniors can only guide the freshmen in preparation for conference play so much. Until the first-year players actually experience it, they will not fully understand the competitiveness the conference embodies.

Big Ten play commences tomorrow for the Lady Lions, but that won't stop them from continuing to chase defensive records. Look for Washington to continue to rotate between man and zone defense in an effort to hamper opposing offenses.

The No. 17/15 Lady Lions will travel to Iowa City, Iowa, tomorrow carrying their defensive state of mind and their luggage as they get set to take on the No. 23/22 Hawkeyes at 3 p.m. inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.






Balanced Offensive Attack Leads Lady Lions To Victory

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By Tyler Feldman, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Despite playing for the first time in seven days, the Lady Lions had no problems shaking off the holiday rust against Hartford on Sunday at the Bryce Jordan Center. Thanks to a well-balanced offensive attack, Penn State stormed past the Hawks, 70-56, to close out its non-conference schedule.

Edwards-Ariel (3).jpegAlthough the Lady Lions were held without a three-pointer (0-for-8) for the first time since November 30, 2011 - a span of 73 games - Coquese Washington received offensive contributions from 10 of her players, five of whom tallied six or more points.

"We're getting great contributions from our bench," said senior guard Maggie Lucas. "I think our starting five is continuing to gel every game. [Dara Taylor] played well and Ariel [Edwards] played well. We're getting a lot of contributions from a lot of people."

The challenging non-conference slate has provided several opportunities of growth for Washington's young squad. From where this Penn State team began, to where they are now, it is clear to Washington that her team is starting to mesh into a dangerous unit.

However, she still feels that this team is smart enough, and talented enough, to continue to make strides on the hardwood.

"I thought we could've had more points if we converted more second chance shots," said Washington. "I thought we got a lot of shots around the basket that didn't fall. We missed quite a few layups and shots in the paint. I think if we made those, we could've had 10 or 12 more points."

Led by seniors Maggie Lucas and Ariel Edwards, who together combined for 33 points, the Lady Lions shot a favorable 28-for-65 from the field (43.1 percent).

While Edwards notched 13 of her 15 points in the first half on 5-of-7 shooting, Lucas was the go-to scorer in the second half, chalking up 10 of her 18 points on 5-of-14 shooting.

"I feel like that's kind of what our team does," said senior forward Ariel Edwards. "Anyone on our team has the ability to score points. I think it just happened in that first half that I was able to get some points and then Maggie took over in the second half."

With the win the Lady Lions notched their fourth consecutive season with at least nine non-conference victories, extending the Blue and White's season record to 9-3.

Moving forward, Washington and her Lady Lions have their minds set on the start of the Big Ten regular season.

"The thing about Big Ten play is there are a lot of different styles that we're going to see," said Washington. "Some play faster, some play slower. Some are more defensive minded. For us, it's going to be a matter of focus and discipline to execute the game plan that we need to do on a nightly basis."

Penn State opens Big Ten play with a tough road test against Iowa on Sunday, January 5. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. in Iowa City.

"We're very excited for Big Ten play," said Edwards. "It's something to look forward to. It's our [the seniors] last go around. We're excited to get into that part of our season."



What To Watch: Penn State hosts Hartford

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's basketball team will close out their non-conference schedule on Sunday, Dec. 29 with a 2 p.m. contest vs. Hartford. The Lady Lions (8-3) enter the weekend ranked No. 15 in the AP Poll and No. 17 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and will host the Hawks (3-9).

GAME NOTES: vs. Hartford

This will be the second meeting in program history, with Penn State claiming a 71-65 victory at the Caribbean Challenge in 2010. The Lady Lions hit 10 three-pointers in the contest. Maggie Lucas and Ariel Edwards both had solid games, with the then-freshmen duo netting 27 and 13 points, respectively.

Pregame Reading
What To Watch For - Penn State

Closing Non-Conference Play: Penn State will close out their non-conference schedule on the hardwood with today's contest vs. Hartford. The Lady Lions own a record of 25-2 over the past four seasons in non-conference home games. They are 5-2 in game played at the Bryce Jordan Center this season, with their two losses coming against No. 1 UConn and No. 5 Notre Dame.

Tori on the Block: We talked about junior Tori Waldner last prior to last weekend's contest vs. Alcorn State, but the junior turned in another solid effort against the Lady Braves. Waldner recorded her second straight game with double-digit rebounds - pulling down 10 boards vs. Alcorn State - and swatted four more shots to bring her season total to 20 blocks. She now has at least one block in 10 straight games.

Taylor Made: Senior guard Dara Taylor has been a big part of the Lady Lions early season success and an 8-3 record. The speedy point guard has topped her career-high in points twice this season, including a 20-point effort vs. Alcorn State last weekend, and has eight games with four-plus assists and seven games with three-or-more steals to help ignite Penn State's fast pace offense.

What To Watch For - Hartford

No Place Like the Road: Hartford has claimed all three of their victories on the road this season, while owning a 0-3 mark at home. The Hawks are 3-4 away from their on-campus arena, with wins over Loyola (Md.), Maine and Sacred Heart. There two highest scoring games - and only two 60-plus point games - have come on the road.

Freshmen Leading the Way: Like Penn State, Hartford is getting major contributions from their freshmen class. Rookies Deanna Mayza, Morgan Lumb and Alyssa Reaves have all led the team in scoring in at least one game. To date, the Hawks freshmen class has combined for over 40 percent of the Hawks points with Mayza (t-1st), Lumb (4th) and Reaves (5th) among the top-five leading scorers.

Thievery and Threes: Junior guard Amber Bepko is among the career leaders at Hartford in steals and three pointers made in her career. The junior needs 28 steals to crack the top-10 in all-time career steals and is among the top-10 in school history in three pointers made. She currently has 81 three point baskets which places her ninth all-time and 63 of her 98 field goal attempts have been from beyond the arch in 2013-14.



Taylor Leads Lady Lions Past Alcorn State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior point guard Dara Taylor had a feeling it was going to be a good afternoon in the Bryce Jordan Center when her first two jump shot attempts went down on Sunday.

9562373.jpegThe Wilmington, Del., native knocked down the game's first two baskets, and Taylor did not look back from there.  She reached 20 points for the first time in her career on a red-hot 9-for-12 from the field.  Taylor also had seven steals and four assists in Penn State's 85-62 victory over Alcorn State.

"It doesn't feel any different than any other game. We were just focused on getting the win today," Taylor said.  "My shot felt good and I found some easy shots in transition...After my first two shots went in, I knew I was going to shoot the ball pretty decently today."

Head coach Coquese Washington liked Taylor's approach on the offense end of the floor.

"I thought she was very aggressive offensively and we like our players to be aggressive offensively," Washington said.  "I thought she kind of came out and set the tone for us being aggressive on the offensive end."

With the Big Ten season just around the corner, Washington said that Sunday's victory provided a great opportunity to get several younger players significant minutes.  In all, 10 different Lions played 11 or more minutes in Sunday's game.

"Well, we did get to play a lot of our young kids, get them some experience that they sorely needed," Washington said.  "They sorely needed to be out there and play and get a sense of what it feels like on game day.  I think that contributed to the ebbs and flows of the game...The experience our young kids got is going to be valuable."

The Lady Lions head into the holiday week with an 8-3 mark.  Washington said she is pleased with the progress the Lions have made, but understands there is a lot of room for improvement.  Nonetheless, optimism is high as the Big Ten season looms.

"Moving forward, I think there are a lot of things we can get better at," said Washington.  "We're making steps but we have a lot of steps yet to make and we have to develop a level of consistency, a level of individual consistency and team consistency that has to improve as we move into conference play."

Penn State will get three days off around the Christmas holiday before getting back to work on Thursday in preparation for the final non-conference game of the season against Hartford on Dec. 29.  Big Ten play begins on Jan. 5 at Iowa.

What To Watch: Penn State hosts Alcorn State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's basketball team continues their homestand on Sunday, Dec. 22 with an 11 a.m. contest vs. Alcorn State. The Lady Lions (7-3) enter the weekend ranked No. 17 in the AP Poll and No. 18 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and will host the Lady Braves (1-8), who enter the contest after a 63-50 loss at Louisiana-Lafayette on Thursday evening.

GAME NOTES: Alcorn State

Penn State will meet the Lady Braves for the first time in program history and own a 4-0 record against teams in the current alignment of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). Penn State has defeated Alabama A&M, Jackson State and twice toppled Prairie View A&M.

Pregame Reading
What To Watch For - Penn State

Building Momentum: Penn State rebounded from a loss at South Dakota State with a victory over then-No. 20/24 Texas A&M last week and will have to more games before starting Big Ten play on Sunday, Jan. 5. The Lady Lions will host Alcorn State today before taking a quick holiday break and returning to Happy Valley for a Dec. 29 bout with Hartford.

Waldner Protecting the Paint: Junior forward Tori Waldner has been a force in the paint for the Blue and White in 2013-14 and had one of her best performances against Texas A&M last Sunday. The Milton, Ga. Native pulled down a career-high 11 rebounds and blocked three shots. On the season, Waldner now has a team-best 16 blocks - including at least one block in nine straight games - and currently ranks second on the team with 6.2 rebounds per game.

Lucas Continues Climb: Senior guard Maggie Lucas continues her ascent towards the top of the Penn State scoring charts. Lucas became the fifth player in school history to reach the 2,000-point plateau and moved into third place in school history with 2,054 career points after a 26-point effort vs. Texas A&M. She is now 199 points shy of moving into the No. 2 spot, currently held by Susan Robinson with 2,253 points.

What To Watch For - Alcorn State

Another New Face: Alcorn State will be meeting the Lady Lions for the first time in program history on Sunday in the Bryce Jordan Center. The Lady Braves have already played four opponents for the first time in program history, defeating Nebraska-Omaha and dropping games to Central Arkansas, James Madison and East Carolina.

Leading the Lady Braves: Senior Tierro Frost is the top scorer for the Lady Braves this season, entering Sunday's matchup averaging 15.4 points per contest. She is the only ASU player averaging in double figures, with Ashtin NcNichols averaging 9.0 points in just two games played. Frost also leads the team in assists (9) and steals (13), while sitting second on the squad in rebounds (44) and blocked shots (5).

Calling Flint Home: The birthplace of General Motors, Flint, Mich. is also home to Penn State head coach Coquese Washington and Alcorn State head coach Tonya Edwards. Edwards and Washington have met as opponents at every level, playing high school basketball against one another, meeting in college, and playing vs. each other in both the ABL and WNBA. Edwards played her high school basketball at Northwestern and attended the University of Tennessee, while Washington prepped at Central High School and played collegiately for Notre Dame. The two met only once in college, a 77-54 victory for the senior Edwards' No. 1 Lady Vols over the freshman Washington's Fighting Irish.

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Washington Gets Recognition From Nation's Best

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By Mike Esse, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As Penn State Lady Lion basketball has returned to national recognition, a lot of focus has been on the job Coquese Washington has done during her seven-year tenure.

Washington-Coquese (5).jpegWashington's name has vaulted into the group of up-and-coming college head coaches over the past two season and some current elite women's basketball coaches shared that sentiment earlier this year.

The Notre Dame graduate began her collegiate head coaching career at Penn State in 2007 and has made three NCAA tournament appearances and won two regular season Big Ten Conference championships in the past three years.

"She's right on top of [her game]...she's the best young coach in the country," said Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw. "When a couple coaches retire, I think she's going to be the one [coach] that everyone looks to."

It all starts with recruiting for Washington, who has had three top-20 recruiting classes since 2008, including a top-10 ranked 2013 class. Washington has recruited players specific to the program's need and has developed a diverse group of stars during her time as head coach for the Blue and White.

Recruiting is where it all starts for elite programs according to legendary Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma, who said Washington has done a tremendous job in getting the right players to Penn State.

"I think Coquese has done a great job of recruiting to her style of play," he said. "That's probably one of the reasons why fans love coming to their [Penn State's] games. This is one of those places where you can be really successful and create a lot of excitement and get a lot of people from the community involved."

Washington has done just that especially during the past three seasons that have ended in NCAA tournament appearances. The annual "Pink Zone" game has attracted over 11,000 fans since 2011, including 14,173 in 2013.

She has also become active in the community with "Coquese's Drive" which raised over 18-thousand dollars for the Women's Resource Center in the sixth annual golf tournament.

Combine those efforts with her leadership, development of players and results on the court; it has been hard not to notice what the Penn State Lady Lion program has become over the recent years.

"There are probably twenty schools in the country that people think are really, really good and they're one of them," Auriemma said of Penn State.

Additionally, besides building one of the top programs in America, Washington has been very active in the women's basketball world as well. She currently resides as the Vice President/President-Elect for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association and is on the board of directors of the NCAA Women's Basketball Issues Committee.

Her work at Penn State and in the realm of women's basketball has led many current coaches to believe Washington is the future of coaching in the sport.

"[Coquese] knows what's good for the game of women's basketball," said McGraw. "She can take her institutional hat off, which a lot of people can't do, and really think about of what's good for women's basketball and what we need for growth in the game.

"She's is going to be the best coaches in the country... she's the best young coach in the country right now. When a couple coaches retire, I think she's going to be the one that everyone looks at to lead the game."

Washington will enter her seventh Big Ten season on Jan. 5 at Iowa after the final non-conference games of the season with Alcorn State Sunday, Dec. 22 and Hartford on Sunday, Dec. 29.