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A Homecoming for Dana Eikenberg

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By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - During a four year span, from 1989-92, Dana Eikenberg attended Penn State University, helped lead the Lady Lions to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances and was an integral part in obtaining the program's first-ever No. 1 ranking in 1991.

However, when she returns to Happy Valley this Sunday, she will be coaching from the bench opposite that of the blue and white clad Lady Lions.

The reason being, Eikenberg is in her second season as an assistant coach for Jody Adams and the Wichita State Shockers.

"Every time I've been back [to Penn State] it's been awesome," said Eikenberg. "To come back with Wichita State and in the NCAA Tournament is something as a player and a coach you work hard for. It makes it extra special to come back to a place that I called home."

Parallel to the current Penn State senior class, Eikenberg was a member of a special group of seniors during her time as a Lady Lion. Eikenberg played alongside Susan Robinson, Kathy Drysdale (formerly Phillips) and Lynn Dougherty.

"You just sensed that there was that camaraderie between the senior class that just pulled them together," said Kathy Cafazzo, former Lady Lions sports information director and current Florida Gators media relations contact.

A true point guard, Eikenberg finished her career tied for sixth on Penn State's career assists chart with 567 dimes.

"I loved my time here at Penn State," said Eikenberg. "I had some of the most diverse, talented women around me. I know it is part of who I am today because of my teammates."

The distance it takes to travel from Wichita, Kan. to University Park is 1,173 miles, making it difficult to connect with her former teammates and coaches in person.

With that being said, once Phillips found out that Wichita State was going to be traveling to Happy Valley to take on Penn State in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Phillips immediately texted Eikenberg to make sure that they met up, to catch up.

For Drysdale, the current Marketing Director of the Lady Lions, Eikenberg is more than just a teammate. The two roomed together all four years while at Penn State.

"It's not so much 'how was it being roommates,'" said Drysdale. "It was how did a point guard and a center live together and survive?"

Over the course of the four years as members of the women's basketball team, Eikenberg and Drysdale weaved multiple baskets full of memories. So much so that it was hard to pick out one memory that stuck out from the rest.

"We were freshmen together, and we were seniors together," said Phillips. "It's hard just to point out one memory when there were so many that were great opportunities for us to grow, develop and become really close friends."

For Eikenberg, her taller roommate was a big reason why her college experience was so unforgettable.

"I probably wouldn't have been able to survive it without her [Drysdale]," said Eikenberg. "Together we probably helped each other through a lot of things. And, being a point guard-post tandem was a pretty good deal."

Reminiscing aside, Eikenberg and the Shockers have only been in State College for a couple of days, but already she has treated her coaches and players to the rich Penn State tradition.

"We went to the Creamery and ate at The Tavern last night," said Adams

Tradition is something that Eikenberg has managed to carry with her as she transitioned from a player at Penn State to a coach.

"Personally as a coach, I have a little bit of background of my coaching staff at Penn State," said Eikenberg. "Annie Troyan, Rene Portland and Dan Durkin; I model all of the details, emphasis and passion that they put in the game. I have a little bit of Penn State in my own personal coaching style."

Returning home to play in a game as meaningful as the matchup today can add a little more flavor to the game. Just ask Penn State head coach Coquese Washington.

"Anytime you can go back and play at home, whether you're a player or a coach, it feels good," said Washington. "I'm sure their [Wichita State's] players and staff have a little added incentive to play well and to represent well coming back to Penn State and bringing Dana back home. It adds a little spice to this first round and second round site."

Although Eikenberg will be coaching for a Shockers victory: once a Lady Lion, forever a Lady Lion.

Welcome home, Dana.


Lucas' Final Journey Starts Where it Began

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For four years Penn State head coach Coquese Washington has become used to hearing one sound before and after practice at the Bryce Jordan Center: the bounce of a basketball.

Every time she looks in the gym to check to see who it is, she finds Maggie Lucas launching three pointers or practicing free throws.

Now, as Penn State prepares to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, that sound is only a few weeks from going away. Washington has gotten so used to that sound and knows that it is a majority of the reason why Lucas' career has shaped out to be what it currently is entering her final postseason appearance.

"As a coach you want to help make their dreams come true and help them reach their goals," Washington said. "When I look at Maggie and the work that she puts in, the passion she plays with, the sacrifices that she makes and committing herself to being the best she can be, it's gratifying to see all of the things happen for a kid like that."

Great things have happened for Lucas in her four-year career at Penn State. Three Big Ten regular season titles, two-time Big Ten Player of the Year, the most three-pointers made in Penn State and Big Ten history and now four NCAA tournament appearances.

She's unique herself just because of the above accolades and from the minds of her coaches and teammates, is getting a deserving finale in her senior year by opening the first two rounds of her final NCAA tournament at home.

The BJC is special to Lucas. Lady Lion fans have been the backbone to what has allowed her to accomplish what she has over the past four years. Watch any game at the BJC and you will find out why.

It's almost guaranteed each home game Lucas will be along the sidelines pumping up the crowd after a big defensive stand or made shot and she will get to do that one last time over the next few days.

"It means a whole lot," Lucas said. "I'm very excited just to get another chance to play in front of our home crowd.

"We really hope we can get as many people here as possible because it's going to be huge to have a home court advantage in the NCAA Tournament."

Lucas will get to pump up her home fans at least one last time where she won 51 games, before her career comes to a close come the end of the tournament. When that time comes, the sound Washington has heard and will forever distinctly remember, goes away.

Washington thinks those extra shots and that distinct sound, will lead to something special in Lucas' postseason finale.

"I'm just happy for her and I know she's going to have a spectacular end to her career and [playing at home] will give her one last chance to play at the BJC in front of these great fans," Washington said.

Penn State opens in the 2014 NCAA tournament as the No. 3 seed against No. 14 Wichita State Sunday at 12:30 on ESPN2.




By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Exuberant cheers loud enough to be heard across Curtin Road from Beaver Stadium rang through the Founder's Room located inside the Bryce Jordan Center on Monday evening.

The reason being, No. 15/14 Penn State (22-7, 13-3) clinched their fourth-straight NCAA tournament appearance and earned the No. 3 seed in the Stanford Region.

More importantly, however, is the fact that the NCAA rewards programs that have a strong following of loyal ESPN crew fans, which means the Lady Lions will have home court advantage during the first two rounds of tournament play.

The Blue and White will open tournament play against No. 14 Wichita State (26-6, 14-4 Missouri Valley) on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. inside the Bryce Jordan Center.

Hearing the words "Bryce Jordan Center" uttered by the ESPN crew broadcasting the Selection Show had head coach Coquese Washington excited about being able to play the first two rounds in a building where her team has had success all season long.

"We love playing at home," said Washington. "We've been a good home team for the past few years. When our fans come out and cheer us on, it can definitely be a true home court advantage for us."

For the four seniors on Washington's squad, they will all have one, and possibly two, last hurrahs playing on the court that they have spent the majority of their time on the past four years.

"I'm so excited to play at home," said senior Talia East. "I love the Bryce Jordan Center and any additional games that I can play here I'm excited about. Making it through these first two games would mean everything to me. We're looking at it one game at a time, so we're pretty focused on Wichita State."

With that being said, hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament is something that Washington and her team has been aware of for some time now.

For that reason, this isn't the first time that Washington has mentioned to her senior class about the idea of having another opportunity to play in front of their home fans.

"We talked about it [playing at home] back on senior night," said Washington. "We told them [the Michigan game] wasn't their last time playing here. To finish out the season in front of their home fans, to get another crack at playing in front of the home fans in the NCAA Tournament, I know they're excited about it."

However, being rewarded with home court advantage for the first two rounds is a completely different story for the freshmen on the team.

"The freshmen have no idea what this means," said Washington. "We could be playing down at the YMCA...This is going to be a completely new experience for them. I hope they just enjoy it, take it in and that it creates a hunger for them moving forward to make sure that we're in this position every year."

Washington's brute honesty regarding the freshmen's tournament inexperience supersedes the comforts of beginning their tournament career on their home court. With that being said, the freshmen players are excited for what's ahead.

"I'm really excited," said freshman Kaliyah Mitchell. "We have four seniors on the team and being able to play at home in the tournament is great for them. We have a feel for how the crowd is going to be and that will really help. We know the games are going to be really competitive, so it's great to be home for the first two games."

At the same time, Mitchell realizes that playing in her first ever NCAA tournament will still be a challenging assignment for her and her freshmen teammates, but might just be a little bit easier on their home court.

"It will be easier to adjust to the tournament being able to play in front of our home crowd," said Mitchell. "I've never been in this situation and none of the other freshmen have been in this situation either, but I know this will be a great experience." 

Rounding out the first rounds games in University Park are No. 6 seed Dayton (23-7, 14-2 A-10) and No. 11 seed Florida (19-12, 8-8 SEC) who tip off at 3 p.m. Sunday. The winners will advance to the second round game on Tuesday, March 25 at 7 p.m.




Lady Lions Can Learn from Big Ten Tourney Setback

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Every game comes with a silver lining. Although, this one may be harder to find, it does exist after Penn State's quarterfinal loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament.

First and foremost, there are still games to play, as the NCAA tournament begins on March 23 at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Penn State will host the first two rounds of the tournament on their home floor and will have over two weeks to prepare for it. Head coach Coquese Washington and her staff will have that same amount of time to correct mistakes made in the game against Ohio State.

"It's a little too early to say if there are some takeaways," Washington said after Friday's loss. "I'd like to watch the tape and digest the game a little bit before I starting making grand pronouncements of what we can take away."

As Washington looks at the tape, she will find some positives. Ariel Edwards' performance against the Buckeyes is one of them. Edwards tallied a career-high 29 points and added 10 rebounds on 9-for-19 shooting from the field and 11-for-15 at the free throw line.

In the second half, Edwards was aggressive as she drove to the hoop consistently, getting to the free throw line 11 times in second half. She also was very strong inside grabbing eight rebounds in the final 20 minutes.

"I thought she [Ariel] did a good job of being aggressive and taking what was available for her," Washington said of her senior guard/forward.

Additionally, Maggie Lucas added 21 total points on the afternoon, including 13 in the second half. That was the theme for Penn State throughout the game and possibly the most promising takeaway heading into the two-week layoff: second half progression.

The team improved as a whole compared to the opening frame with 48 total points in the second half, 14 more than their opening 20 minutes. Ohio State's shooting numbers decreased in the second half as they scored 17 less points and shot 22 percent lower. Penn State used those numbers to eventually cut down the Buckeye lead to single digits after a 27-point deficit.

While none of that may cure the outcome of the game itself from Friday afternoon, it does give positives to include with the rest of the breakdown of the game during the next two weeks of preparation.

"The good thing is we've got a little bit of time to regroup and get ready for the NCAA Tournament where we know we're going to play some quality opponents," Washington said.

As the NCAA Tournament brackets are to be released Monday March 17, the Lady Lions may have something not many other teams have. Penn State has the benefit of knowing the weapons they have to beat teams in tournament play and what may slow them down, all from one game.

The opening round of the NCAA Tournament is set for Sunday March 23, with game times to be determined.



VIDEO: Big Ten Tournament - Postgame Locker Room

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's basketball team was upset in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday in Indianapolis. The Lady Lions will head into the NCAA Tournament with a 22-7 overall record.

We talked to senior's Ariel Edwards and Maggie Lucas following the 99-82 loss to Ohio State. The two teams combined for 181 points, which is a new Big Ten Tournament record, and Penn State was led by 29 points from Edwards and 21 from Lucas.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live in-game coverage on GoPSUsports.com for the No. 8/12 Penn State women's basketball contest against Ohio State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday, March 7 inside Banker Life Fieldhouse at Noon.

2014 Big Ten Tournament Headquarters

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.


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Follow along with some images from the quarterfinal matchup between Penn State women's basketball and Ohio State at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.



2014 Big Ten Tournament Headquarters

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Throughout the 2013-14 Big Ten Tournament you can follow along with all of the happenings and latest news with the Lady Lions on their quest for the programs third Big Ten Tournament title.

The GoPSUsports.com blog team will keep you up-to-date with continued coverage of the team from their quarterfinal matchup with Ohio State through the end of their stay in the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

More content will be added as the Lady Lions continue their quest for the programs first Big Ten Tournament title since 1996.

Monday, March 3               Feature Story  |  All-Big Ten Release
Tuesday. March 4             
Feature Story
Wednesday, March 5         Tournament Notes  |  Bracket Breakdown
Thursday, March 6            
Feature Story
Friday, March 7                  What to Watch  |  Photo Blog  |  In-Game Blog


What to Watch: Penn State vs. Ohio State

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By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After receiving a first round bye in the Big Ten tournament after earning the No. 1 overall seed, the stage is finally set for Penn State's quarterfinal matchup.
The No. 11/11 Lady Lions (22-6, 13-3 Big Ten) will play Ohio State (16-17, 5-11 Big Ten) at noon today (March 7) at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind.

Not only are the Lady Lions coming off of their third straight regular season conference title, but this marks the seventh time in program history that Penn State has been awarded the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.

In the two games played between Penn State and Ohio State this season, the Lady Lions have come out on top both times, winning by 20 or more points in each respective contest.

Pregame Reading

What to Watch - Penn State

Machine Gun Maggie: Her numbers speak volumes to her play on the court and despite garnering the majority of attention from opposing teams defenses, senior guard Maggie Lucas still managed to put up 21.5 points per game this season. The two-time Big Ten Player of the Year also gets to the free throw line where she is shooting an astounding 95.9 percent. In her two games against Ohio State this season, Lucas has scored 18 and 23 points, respectively, to lead the Lady Lions to two sizeable victories.

Defensive Focus: One of the main focuses for head coach Coquese Washington is defense. In the two contests against Ohio State this season, the Lady Lions have held the Buckeyes to field-goal percentages of 29.6 and 27.9 percent, respectively. Leading the charge defensively for the Blue and White is senior guard Dara Taylor, who is averaging a conference best 2.9 steals per game while guarding the opposing team's most skilled offensive threat. Because of her efforts this season Taylor was selected as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

Benefit of the Bench: What separates good teams from great teams in the conference tournament is depth. With the possibility of three games in three days, Washington is going to have to give her starters a rest and rely on her bench players at times. Freshmen Kaliyah Mitchell and Peyton Whitted have the talent to provide serviceable minutes for the Lady Lions. Mitchell is averaging 4.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, while Whitted is posting 3.0 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.

What to Watch - Ohio State

Enter Paint with Caution: Trying to score or rebound inside on the Buckeyes is a challenging task. The Scarlet and Grey sit second in the conference in blocked shots, averaging 5.1 swats per game. Defensively, Ohio State is allowing just 65.1 points per game, which puts them at fourth in the conference. Senior Ashley Adams leads the team with 63 out of the team's 168 total blocked shots. Yesterday afternoon in their win against Northwestern, teammates Darryce Moore and Martina Ellerbe combined to corral 23 out of the team's 45 total rebounds.

All Eyes on Alston: Sophomore guard Ameryst Alston has carried the Ohio State offense this season, averaging 36.6 minutes per game and scoring a team-high 18.2 points per contest. She does all this while shooting incredibly efficient 45.1 percent from the field, 34.4 percent from three point range and 83.2 percent from the charity stripe. In the win over Northwestern, Alston shot lights out, scoring 30 points in just 38 minutes of play.

Strength of Schedule: You might look at the Buckeyes 16-17 record and scoff. Even see they lost seven out of their last eight regular season contests. But look at their strength of schedule and you will rescind that scoff to see they sit third nationally in strength of schedule. Ohio State is well prepared for difficult matchups in tournament time after taking on ranked opponents in Connecticut, Maryland, Penn State, Purdue and Nebraska. The Buckeyes have competed against the best in the country and understand what it takes to play against the best.




Taylor's the Lady Lions Voice of Reason

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By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In just two seasons on the court in the blue and white, senior guard Dara Taylor has managed to make a seamless transition into the fabric of the Penn State women's basketball program.

It's almost as if she has been a Lady Lion for four years, however, that is hardly the case. Taylor has had to display patience and growth to reach the point that she is at currently.

Just this past week, Taylor's patience and hard work was noticed by more than just her coaches and teammates, as she was named the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year, in addition to being selected to the All-Big Ten second team and the Big Ten All-Defensive team.

"Being named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year is cool," said Taylor. "It's only my second year in the league, but it is great to have the respect of the other coaches and humbling that they would allow me to win that award."

Her mentor and head coach, Coquese Washington, could not be happier for her star point guard.

"I'm really, really happy for her," said Washington.

That feeling is echoed by Taylor's teammates.

"She picks up her defensive assignment full court every game," said senior guard Maggie Lucas. "That's a lot to ask out of somebody and she's done it, no questions asked, the whole season. In my opinion, she 100 percent deserves to be Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. We are very proud of her."

However, it wasn't all accolades and awards for Taylor when she arrived in Happy Valley during the 2011-12 season. As a matter of fact, Taylor had to sit out the entire year due to NCAA transfer rules.

"That year was difficult," said Taylor. "Not to be able to travel, not to be able to really play with the team, that was tough. But, it gave me a chance to see how things developed, how the team worked together and what the coaches were looking for. I think it really helped me fit into the system really well when I finally got my chance."

Even Washington knew how much the year off was a struggle for Taylor, but she also realized how much she could learn from simply watching an entire season.

"That year off, that hurts," said Washington. "It kills you every night when you're watching your teammates play, and you can't go out there and help them. But I think she learned a lot during that season."

For Taylor, her collegiate basketball career began in 2009 at the University of Maryland. During her freshman campaign she broke Maryland's freshman single season assists record with 171 dimes. She then saw considerate time during her sophomore campaign but felt she needed a change.

That's where Washington and the Lady Lions come into play. Taylor opted to move from College Park to State College after her sophomore year, and the rest is history.

"I got here [to Penn State] and Coquese really worked one-on-one with me," said Taylor. "That helped get me comfortable and build my confidence up. She's been very specific in what she is looking for, which makes it really easy as a player. They [coaches] are constantly giving me feedback and helping me to grow, that makes it easier to gel on the court."

Since Taylor's arrival onto the court, the Lady Lions have compiled a record of 48-12. In her senior campaign, the 5-foot-8 point guard is averaging 33.8 minutes per game, 11.6 points per game, 4.9 assists per game, and 2.9 steals per game.

When looking at those numbers, the word balance certainly comes to mind.

"Certainly she's grown this year on both ends of the floor," said Washington. "She's been able to be a better defensive player than she was last year in terms of steals per game. Also what she's done on the offensive end in terms of managing and running the team has been amazing."

From where Taylor began, to where she is now, she has transitioned from lead by example, to lead by example and being a vocal leader. According to Washington, Taylor's most impressive development has been the maturation of her voice on the court and in practice.

"Believe it or not, she's more vocal this year," said Washington. "You probably can't tell on the court - she's quiet by nature - but she's been more vocal. She's a good balance with Maggie, who is a little bit more emotional and more of a fiery player. Dara is the voice of reason and calms everyone down and gets them focused on what needs to happen next."

So much of Taylor's development can be traced to assistant coach, Fred Chmiel, who Taylor gives the majority of credit to for her success. With that being said, Chmiel notes that Taylor is an extremely hard worker, so seeing her be awarded for her efforts comes as no surprise

"She's got a lot to work with," said Chmiel. "She's fast, she's quick, and she's intelligent. So, it's not hard for her to be a great defensive player. The hard part for her was swinging for the fence every time down the floor - going for the steal. She refined things like changing her angles, knowing where the next pass was coming from and the other little things. The rest was Dara, she's a phenomenal athlete and defender."

Despite being rewarded for her stellar play this season, Taylor, her teammates, and her coaches understand that the season is still far from over. The Big Ten Tournament is up next, followed by the NCAA Tournament.

Washington knows that the success of her team relies on the balance that Taylor can bring to the hardwood.

"The more balanced she can be, the better it makes our team," said Washington. "We've been at our best this year when we're getting four or five people in double figures. And that is a direct reflection in some respects on the way Dara manages the game. Her defense is going to be there night in, night out, but she makes out team run on both ends."