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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.


Strong Second Half Leads Lady Lions Past Ranked Foe

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By Mike Esse, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was classic Lady Lion basketball on Sunday at the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday, Dec. 15 as Penn State hosted then-No. 20/24 Texas A&M. The Lady Lions entered the contest ranked 12th in the NCAA and dominated the glass in the second half, played stifling defense and watched their best offensive scorer go to work in the scoring column culminating in a 66-58 win over the Aggies.

Lucas-Maggie (9).jpegPenn State started off hot in the first half opening the game with a 12-0 run with scoring from Lucas, Ariel Edwards and Dara Taylor. Texas A&M then found a way to negate their 0-for-13 shooting start and made a run midway through to half to take a 27-19 lead. The Lady Lions countered with an 11-1 run to take a 30-28 lead into the break.

The second half was where things got rolling for Penn State and Lucas led the way scoring nine of the first 11 points of the half. Lucas added 10 more points in her 17-point second half and 27-point afternoon, guiding Penn State past a tough Aggie team.

"I thought she got some pretty good looks," said Penn State head coach Coquese Washington. "Maggie [Lucas] picked up the load. She made some really good shots and she made some tough shots. She did a good job reading the defense to figure out where her openings were going to be."

For Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair, Lucas' performance was no surprise. The 11th year head coach spoke highly of Lucas in the postgame press conference and even said he used her as an example to his players before the game.

"I told my kids before shoot around, I said 'Watch'," Blair said referencing Lucas. "An hour and thirty minutes before the game, Maggie Lucas was on the floor shooting. That's what the great ones do. The good ones talk about it, the great ones find the gym and get their mojo working."

Lucas' mojo was working, especially in the second half. She didn't do it alone though, as the Penn State rebounding attack improved greatly in the final 20 minutes of play. Texas A&M tallied just three offensive rebounds in the half, compared to 13 in the first half.

With Talia East in foul trouble, Tori Waldner and Edwards combined for eight of Penn State's 16 defensive rebounds shutting Texas A&M out of any second-chance opportunities. Because of the zone Washington uses, defensive rebounding can be hard to come by because of the gaps it creates, but she has stressed her team has to find a way to counter that and she thought they did a good job of doing so in the second half.

"It takes the team a while to figure out where the rebounds were going to come from and how people are crashing the boards during a game," said Washington.  "I thought the second half we did a much better job of rebounding out of the zone. Tori [Waldner], in particular, just did a much better job of attacking the backboard."

A strong second half led to the win against Texas A&M Sunday, but still has Washington searching for a complete two-halve performance with just two non-conference games remaining before their Big Ten opener against Iowa on Jan. 5.

However, Washington did say she thought the win Sunday was certainly a step in the right direction.

"We did a better job today in putting two halves together but we aren't quite there yet," she said. "That's the thing we have to do. I think the more experience we get with this team and this unit playing together, that will come."

Penn State hosts Alcorn State on Dec. 22 and Hartford on Dec. 29 to cap the 2013 non-conference season. Both games are at the Bryce Jordan Center.



GAME BLOG: Lady Lions host Texas A&M

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live in-game coverage on for the Penn State women's basketball contest against No. 20/24 Texas A&M on Sunday, Dec. 15 inside the Bryce Jordan Center. 

BLOG: What to Watch  |  BLOG: Patience Leads East to Feature Role  |  GAME NOTES: Texas A&M

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


What To Watch: Penn State hosts Texas A&M

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's basketball team returns home to start a three-game homestand on Sunday (Dec. 15) against Texas A&M. The No. 12/12 Lady Lions (6-3) welcome No. 20/24 Aggies (5-2) to the Bryce Jordan Center for a 2 p.m. tipoff.


Penn State trailed by 20 points at halftime on Wednesday at South Dakota State, but rallied in the second half to pull within one point, however, the Jackrabbits held on down the stretch for an 83-79 victory. Three players reached double figures for Penn State, with Ariel Edwards netting 24 points, Maggie Lucas scoring 20 points and Dara Taylor adding 19.

The all-time series is tied (1-1), with Penn State snapping Texas A&M's long home court non-conference winning streak last season and the Aggies winning the first meeting in 2008 at the Timeout 4 HIV/AIDS Tournament in Malibu.

13-12-15-WBB-Texas A&M.jpg
Pregame Reading
What To Watch For - Penn State

Bouncing Back Under Washington: Penn State has not lost consecutive games since dropping back-to-back Big Ten contests during the 2011-12 season. At that time, Penn State lost at Ohio State, 89-67, before falling to Purdue at home, 51-49, in February of 2012. The Lady Lions have followed up a loss with a win on 17 straight occasions, including this season vs. Bucknell and at Georgetown.

Edwards Goes for 24: Senior Ariel Edwards tied her career-high on Wednesday at South Dakota State by scoring 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting. The Elmont, N.Y. native, tied the mark she set last season against Detroit on Nov. 23, 2012 at the Radisson Hotel Chatsworth Thanksgiving Tournament. It is her third career 20-point game, with the other coming against St. Francis (23) in the 2013-14 season opener.

Home for the Holidays: Penn State will be at home for their next three games starting tonight against the Aggies. The Blue and White will host Alcorn State (12/22) before heading home for a quick holiday break. They will then welcome Hartford to the Bryce Jordan Center on Dec. 29 before hitting the road to begin Big Ten play on Jan. 5, 2014 at Iowa.

What To Watch For - Texas A&M

Looking for Revenge: This will be the second game in the home-and-home series, which began with a Penn State victory over Texas A&M last season at Reed Arena. The Lady Lions claimed a 63-58 decision to end the Aggies 58-game non-conference home winning streak that dated back to the 2003 season.

Limiting the Opposition: The Aggies are ranked 13th in the NCAA defensively, allowing 54.4 points per game, allowing only three opponents to crack the 60-point mark. The Aggies have limited two opponents to fewer than 40 points - Prairie View A&M (27) & San Diego State (35) - and also held North Texas to just 45 points.

Against the Rankings: Texas A&M has won their last three games against ranked opponents away from home and claimed four of their last five such contests. They also like playing the No. 12 team in the rankings, winning their last three contests vs. the 12th ranked team - defeating Oklahoma (2009-10) and twice beating Texas (2008-09 & 2009-10).


Patience Leads East to Feature Role

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By Mike Esse, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Two words: patience and dedication. Put those two together and you get Lady Lion senior Talia East.

East-Talia (3).jpegThe 6-foot-3 forward from Philadelphia wasn't seeing the playing time she wanted in her first two years due to injuries and veterans in front of her. In 2012-13, East began to show flashes of the player she could be and now in her final year in Happy Valley, she is a dominating force inside for the Lady Lions. Blossomed

That first word, patience, has been the key for East. It took her more time than she would have liked to crack the starting lineup on a consistent basis, but East wouldn't have it any other way because she now understands her role on the team.

"It's all about understanding what the team needs from you," said East. "As soon as you understand that and excel at your role, you're going to get a bigger role and then you look up and you're starting on a top-10 team in the nation. It was just about understanding my role and exceling at it.

East's emergence doesn't surprise her coaches and teammates because of the amount of work she put in over the summer and over the past three years. Now, she's averaging just over 20 minutes a game, 6.8 rebounds and 6.6 points per game while shooting 52 percent from the floor, all drastic improvements from one year ago.

"This offseason she put in a lot of work and she's a fun kid," said Washington.  "Her teammates love her, her coaches love her and I'm just happy that she's having the type of senior season she is having. You want to end your career playing the best basketball you can and give everything you have to the success of the team and she's doing that."

While East said she is never satisfied with her play, she did admit it was exciting to see all of her hard work pay off and her contributions be felt on the floor as a senior captain. East's leadership has constantly been on display off the court, but she has been the main leader in Penn State's games against two of the top five teams in the country.

Against No. 1 Connecticut on Nov. 17, and against two of the better post players in the country - Stefanie Dolson and Breanna Stewart - East thrived inside scoring eight points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Similarly against No. 4 Notre Dame she again dominated the post tallying a career-high 12 points, with four rebounds and three blocks.

Those two performances continued to instill confidence in the senior and confirm how big of a role she needs to have for her team. Washington cited that as the biggest reason why East has been able to succeed in the non-conference season.

"She plays with the confidence and urgency that seniors play with," said Washington. "She's really comfortable with who she is as a basketball player and what her contributions to the team are. She's really figured out what her game is and what her contributions are and she just brings [that mentality] every night."

The way East is playing is not only important to her and to the overall success of the team, but also plays a big role in the development of the seven freshmen on the 2013-14 roster.

Washington said East is the perfect player to watch and learn from about how to be patient and grow into the player the team needs.

"I hope they [the freshmen] are paying attention," Washington said.

After a couple minutes with rookie post player Alex Harris, it is clear that they are.

Harris watches East every day in practice and thinks back to the fact that her success didn't happen overnight. It was a long three year process that brought East to this point in her career and Harris said that is a "very important lesson" for herself and fellow freshman to learn.

"It's sending a great message," said Harris. "It teaches us patience and shows that as we go on [through our careers] we will get better. From her I have learned to keep working and getting in the gym and from there you will get to your top point like Talia is in her senior year.

"Not many people have this type of opportunity and I'm grateful to be able to look up to her and see where she is and how hard she worked to get to this point."

Three years ago East was saying those words about players like Nikki Greene, whom she learned important lessons from, and now it is her turn to succeed and teach.

Nine games into the season it is safe to say her patience and dedication is paying off and setting a great example for the younger players in the program.

Penn State is back on the floor Sunday against No. 24 Texas A&M at 2 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center.



Lady Lions Comeback Falls Just Short at South Dakota State

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By Tyler Feldman, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Temperatures were below zero last night in Brookings, S.D., but if you were inside the appropriately named Frost Arena, you would have thought there was a heat wave.

Edwards-Ariel (3).jpegBoth the Lady Lions and the South Dakota State Jackrabbits were lighting a fire all over the hardwood yesterday evening, combining to score a total of 162 points.

Despite being unable to complete the comeback and eventually losing, 83-79, in a difficult road test, the Blue and White displayed tenacity by clawing back from a 20-point first half deficit. 

"What this really goes to show us is we need to be more determined from the opening tip," said Penn State assistant coach Kia Damon.

The Jackrabbits seemed to always have an answer for every Lady Lions made basket in the first half, especially from beyond the arc. The Jackrabbits shot an astounding 50 percent from downtown in the first half (8-of-16), to go into the locker room at the half leading, 55-35.

There is no denying Penn State dug itself quite a hole in the first half, but when the buzzer sounded and the second half commenced it seemed as if a spark had been ignited within the Lady Lions.

It was the play of some experienced veterans that energized Penn State in the second half. Senior guard Dara Taylor scored 11 of her career-high 19 points in the second frame to jumpstart the Lady Lions.

Taylor was not the only Lady Lion to spark the squad. Forward Ariel Edwards tied her career-high with 24 points, including 16 second half points thanks to 7-of-8 shooting.  

"They [Taylor and Edwards] were the catalysts who were getting us going in transition," said Damon. "We were able to use our speed and athleticism to get some easy baskets; they led the charge in the second half."

Senior Maggie Lucas naturally contributed on the offensive side of the ball by tallying 20 points, 12 of which were netted in the second half. Lucas's offensive efforts moved her up to 15th place on the Big Ten all-time career scoring list.

The second half play of the Lady Lions is definitely the type of effort that Coquese Washington and her coaching staff are looking for out of their team as conference play approaches.

"We showed we are aggressive and determined to move the ball in order to get good shot attempts," said Damon. "When we do those things, we can be successful."

Considering the fact that since the 2011-12 season the Jackrabbits are now 29-4 in Frost Arena, escaping with just a four point loss is to some extent permissible, but the Lady Lions are determined to learn from their play in the first half to continue to grow into a stronger team.

"The number one takeaway is we held South Dakota State to just 28 points in the second half, but we gave up 55 points in the first half, and we had the same defensive philosophy in both halves," said Damon. "We are capable of making people have very long nights offensively, but we must start the game with that kind of mindset."



What To Watch: Penn State at South Dakota State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's basketball team (6-2) wrap up a two-game road trip tonight (Dec. 11) inside Frost Arena in Brookings S.D. against South Dakota State (6-4). The two teams will square off for the second straight season, with tipoff slated for at 8 p.m.

GAME NOTES: at South Dakota State

The Lady Lions bounced back from their 10-point loss to No. 5 Notre Dame with a 77-68 victory against Georgetown in Washington, D.C. on Sunday. Maggie Lucas led the way with her sixth career 30-point effort, while Talia East (10), Ariel Edwards (12) and Dara Taylor (12) all reached double figures, as well.

Something is going to have to give in this meeting, as Penn State is now 3-0 away from home this season, while South Dakota State is 4-0 at home. The Lady Lions claimed a 60-50 decision at the Bryce Jordan Center last season in the program only meeting.

Pregame Reading
What To Watch For - Penn State

Lucas Moving Up the Charts: Maggie Lucas scored 30 points to lead all scorers and in the process moved into an exclusive cast of Lady Lions. The senior netted her 2,000th career point at Georgetown on Sunday with her sixth career 30-point effort and enters the meeting with the Jackrabbits with 2,008 career points.

East is Moving North: Head coach Coquese Washington said at her weekly press conference that senior Talia East has "grown into her game." She went on to say that early in East's career she may not have been as focused on herself as she was on what others were doing, but claims that the senior has grown into her game this season. East is averaging 7.4 points and is tied for first on the team with 6.8 rebounds per contest.

Home for the Holidays: Penn State is not looking past South Dakota State, but next up on the schedule will be a three-game home stand that spans nearly three weeks. The Lady Lions will host Texas A&M (12/15) and Alcorn State (12/22) before heading home for a quick holiday break. They will then welcome Hartford to the Bryce Jordan Center on Dec. 29 before hitting the road to begin 2014.

What To Watch For - South Dakota State

Tough at Home: The Jackrabbits are 28-4 at home since the 2011-12 season and are a perfect 4-0 at Frost Arena in 2013-14. Two of South Dakota State's losses have come in close fashion, losing an overtime game to Marquette and a one-point decision to IUPUI during the 2012-13 season.

A Common Link: South Dakota State and Penn State have met one common opponent in 2013-14. Both squads have faced off with Georgetown - each walking away victorious. South Dakota State also got their last victory over a top-25 opponent vs. a Big Ten team, defeating then-No. 15 Nebraska, 60-55, at Frost Arena on Nov. 18, 2012.

Long Rangers: South Dakota State leads the Summit League and ranks 42nd nationally in three pointers made per game (7.4). Eleven of 13 Jackrabbits have hit at least one three-pointer this season  Junior Megan Waytashek ranks sixth in the Summit League in three-pointers made (17) and senior Tara Heiser is second in three-point percentage (.500).




Lucas Bounces Back in Win Over Georgetown

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By Mike Esse, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Maggie Lucas wasn't pleased with her performance against No. 4 Notre Dame on Wednesday and put it behind her with ease in No. 10/11 Penn State's (6-2) 77-68 win at Georgetown (5-3) on Sunday.

Lucas-Maggie (4).jpegThe reigning Big Ten Player of the Year scored 30 points, shooting 10-for-21 from the field and 5-for-12 from downtown. The hot scoring night also put Lucas in Penn State's exclusive 2,000-point club, becoming just the fifth Lady Lion to do it.

Sunday was a drastic difference from her 1-for-8 night against the Fighting Irish, but her coaches and teammates were far from surprised.

"We weren't too concerned (about Maggie)," said assistant coach Maren Walseth. "She's a very focused player and knows what she needs to do to be successful. Her and [assistant coach] Fred Chmiel were in the office watching film and looking at the adjustments she needed to make and it paid off."

Lucas started off the game on an encouraging note, hitting two of her first three shots, both of which came from long range, to get her confidence going from the outset of the game.

The way Lucas came out firing Sunday was a positive for herself, but more than likely even more important for the seven freshman Lady Lions to see their senior leader respond well after a poor shooting night.

"It's good for the rest of the girls to see that you can have a bad game and control your shot selection the next game and have 30 points," said Walseth. "Her performance speaks more to her teammates and the younger players than to our coaching staff."

After the loss to Notre Dame the focus for the mix of veteran and youthful Lady Lions was executing the game plan laid out, no matter who the opponent may be.

With a lot of contributors early in their collegiate careers it's a little different from last year when the game plan didn't have to be followed nearly verbatim because of the experienced players on the floor. This year, Walseth says that isn't the case.

"We have to execute the game plan and do what we are supposed to," she said. "We can't freelance as much with young players. Executing the game plan is much more important with young kids."

Having Lucas as her usual self - a reliable scoring threat - makes that easier to do.

"Whether she likes it or not, everybody feeds off of Maggie," the seventh year assistant said. "When she is playing relaxed, under control and confident, her teammates pick it up. She was able to do that today and others were able to pick [the intensity] up."

Three other Lady Lions were in double figures, supplementing Lucas' 30-point night. Dara Taylor and Ariel Edwards each chipped in 10 points, while Talia East added 10 points vs. the Hoyas.

The added scoring is something Coquese Washington and the coaching staff has been looking for all season long on a consistent basis. Lucas' scoring effort certainly showed that if more focus is put on her, she has capable teammates to make opponents pay.

"When Maggie can come back and fill her role [as a scoring threat] it makes it easier for everyone else. They know what to expect and are able to execute and fill their roles better when Maggie is scoring," Walseth said.

Penn State returns to the road Wednesday against South Dakota State before welcoming 2010-11 NCAA Champion Texas A&M to the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday at 2 p.m.



What To Watch: Penn State at Georgetown

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's basketball team will hit the road for their first true road contest of the season when they head to McDonough Arena in Washington, D.C. on Sunday (Dec. 8) to face Georgetown at 2 p.m. The Lady Lions will be facing the Hoyas for the second straight season.

GAME NOTES: at Georgetown

The Lady Lions suffered another narrow loss to a top-five team on Wednesday, when Notre Dame claimed a 77-67 victory at the Bryce Jordan Center, but you can start to see a young supporting cast that is beginning to catch up with the veteran leaders.


Penn State is 2-0 away from home this season, winning the Junkanoo Jam with victories over Oregon State, 61-56, and Illinois State, 72-60, on a neutral court in Freeport, Bahamas. Maggie Lucas was the Junkanoo Jam MVP and Dara Taylor was also selected to the All-Tournament Team.

13-12-08-WBB-Georgetown.jpg Pregame Reading
What To Watch For - Penn State

Lucas on the Rebound: Maggie Lucas continues to lead the Lady Lions with 20.0 points per game, despite netting just seven points vs. Notre Dame. It was the seniors lowest scoring output since she tallied seven points on Jan. 22, 2012 vs. Iowa. However, the senior did extend her streak of games with a three-point basket to 41 games when she knocked down a three pointer late in the second half vs. Notre Dame.

The Rookies: Penn State knew it would need contributions from their freshmen this season, but a pair of rookies have stood out as major players on the court in the early going. Alex Harris and Kaliyah Mitchell have both been big off the bench for head coach Coquese Washington. Harris is averaging a team-best 7.3 rebounds per contest and swatting nine shots in seven games. Mitchell ranks fifth on the team in scoring - 6.6 points per game - and is a force on the glass with five rebounds per game.

Good After a Loss: Penn State has not lost consecutive games since dropping back-to-back Big Ten contests during the 2011-12 season. At that time, Penn State lost at Ohio State, 89-67, before falling to Purdue at home, 51-49. The Lady Lions have followed up a loss with a win on 16 straight occasions.

What To Watch For - Georgetown

Off to a Fast Start: The Hoyas won the Great Alaskan shootout, defeating Nicholls State, 67-50, and host Alaska-Anchorage, 92-78, and improved to 5-2 after defeating George Washington, 78-57, on Tuesday (Dec. 3) at McDonough Arena. The Hoyas started the season 1-2, dropping back-to-back games at South Dakota State and vs. Cal, before winning four straight to enter today's contest.

The Butler Did It: Georgetown is led by freshman center Natalie Butler, who enters the game averaging a double-double, scoring 16.4 points per game and averaging 12.7 rebounds a contest. She has added 12 blocks and 17 assists to her totals this season, as well.

Three Pronged Attack: Butler is not the only scoring threat the Georgetown will put on the court today, as two other Hoyas are putting up 10-plus points per game. Senior forward Andrea White is second on the team with 14.1 points per game - shooting nearly 60 percent from the field. Sophomore guard Katie McCormick is a three-point threat and averages 12.6 points per game with 2.7 three pointers made per game.



Playing Nation's Best Aiding Lady Lions' Improvement

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By Mike Esse, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - If there's such a thing as a blessing in disguise, No. 10/11 Penn State's two losses in the early stages of the 2013-14 season might fit that billing come February and March.

Taylor-Dara (6).jpegThe No. 1 Connecticut and No. 4/5 Notre Dame squads were on the schedule as chances to garner resume-building wins, but the losses may build something even more important: a complete and experienced Lady Lion team.

Following a 77-67 lost to the Fighting Irish, that's how head coach Coquese Washington and three of her senior captains approached the two losses to a pair of the nation's best.

There are many reasons why, but the one that was on display most against Washington's alma mater was her team's ability to play competitively for long stretches without 2013 Big Ten Player of the Year Maggie Lucas on the floor.

Washington knows that Lucas' seven-point performance won't happen many more times during her senior year, but what she didn't know was how her team would respond to not having its best player on the floor.

Wednesday, against Notre Dame, they responded well.

Dara Taylor, Talia East and Ariel Edwards all were in double figures plus seven points from Tori Waldner and five rebounds apiece via Kaliyah Mitchell and Alex Harris. That's exactly what their head coach wanted to see.

"Coming into the game we talked to everybody about being aggressive and assertive," said Washington. "I thought from the beginning of the game Dara [Taylor], Ariel [Edwards] and Talia [East[ were all assertive and aggressive. Kaliyah [Mitchell] and Alex [Harris] both came off the bench and did good things for us."

This was an important building block for those players since they did it without Lucas on the floor and it is proof of their need to continually build toward consistent balanced scoring before the conference season begins.

"When teams really key in on [Maggie] and make it difficult for her, the rest of us have to step up and be aggressive," said Taylor. "We can't be a one-person show. We have to help her out. Maggie can't carry us throughout the whole season and I think in the second half we proved that we can pick her up when we made our run."

Going back to the loss to Connecticut, Lucas thrived in the second half getting Penn State within nine points of the Huskies after being down by more than 18. She received help in that second half though, as Waldner had seven points and East added six rebounds, most of which were very important to their near comeback run.

Now, the Lady Lions know what they need to do to play a complete and consistent game with seven, eight or nine different players since they proved they could do it against a pair of the top five teams in the country.

"It's really encouraging," said Washington of the number of players that contributed in the two losses. "I think that is one of the areas that we need to get better at, which is developing some offensive rhythm and consistency. Again, when we do that, we're going to be really strong."

Washington has said over the past three weeks that the season is in fact a "work in progress" in the early stages, but confidence is building as more players begin to contribute and her team knows that just 10 points separate them from the top teams in the country.

"We're close. I think we just have to make some small adjustments," said East. "It's December. We're eight or 10 points away from the number one team in the nation. We're right there and we're just going to keep building on it and be a great team by March."

Penn State heads to the road for a two game road trip against Georgetown and South Dakota State before facing it's final ranked opponent of the non-conference season No. 23 Texas A&M at home on Dec. 15.