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GAME BLOG: Lady Lions host Michigan

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live in-game coverage on GoPSUsports.com for the No. 12/8 Penn State women's basketball contest against Michigan on Saturday, March 1 inside the Bryce Jordan Center at 3:30 p.m.

BLOG: What to Watch  |  BLOG: East A Blessing For The Lady Lions

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What to Watch: Penn State hosts Michigan

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - There is just one tune up left for the Penn State women's basketball team before postseason play begins. The No. 12/8 Lady Lions (21-6, 12-3) will host Michigan (14-11, 8-7) on Saturday, March 1 at 3:30 p.m. with at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title on the line.

The Lady Lions are 11-4 on their home court this season - 5-2 in Big Ten play - and will look to bounce back after a loss at Nebraska on Monday. Penn State is 30-9 all-time vs. Michigan - winning six straight games - and own a 16-2 record at home in the series, including a victory in last season's final regular season game.



Pregame Reading
What To Watch For - Penn State

Coming Off a Loss: Dara Taylor has never lost consecutive games while wearing the blue and white, while Ariel Edwards, Talia East and Maggie Lucas have only felt defeat in back-to-back games once in their Penn State careers. Penn State has followed a loss with a win 20 straight times dating back to the 2010-11 season. The Lady Lions are 5-0 this season coming off of a loss.

A Trio of Treys: Maggie Lucas will leave Penn State as the career leader in a few categories, currently sitting atop of the career free throws made and free throw percentage lists. She enters Saturday's regular season finale needing just a trio of three pointers made to take over the top spot from Kelly Mazzante. Lucas has connected on 355 shots from distance, just behind Mazzante's 357 from 2001-04.

One Day Early: This week has not been a normal week for the Lady Lions. They played on Monday at Nebraska and will now move up one day and host Michigan on Saturday. The good thing about playing a day before everyone else is the Lady Lions can put the pressure on Nebraska and Michigan State with a win. Penn State can earn at least a share of the Big Ten regular season crown with a victory, which would force Nebraska to win at Purdue and Michigan State to defeat Indiana in East Lansing to create a three-way tie atop the conference.

What To Watch For - Michigan

Limiting Chances: The key to beating Penn State is limiting their offensive touches. The Lady Lions lead the Big Ten in rebounding, but Michigan is the top team in rebounding defense. The Wolverines are allowing teams just 30.6 rebounds per game. Michigan leads the conference in rebounding margin, as well, pulling down 8.7 more rebounds per game than their opponents.

Three Point Threat: Freshman Siera Thompson has hit at least one three pointer in all 28 games this season and ranks sixth in the Big Ten with 65 made triples, hitting two more three's than Penn State's Maggie Lucas. The rookie ranks 20th in the Big Ten in scoring (13.4 ppg) and sits third in minutes played among her conference counterparts at 36.2 minutes per game.

Goree-ing for a Double: Junior Cyesha Goree is nearly averaging a double-double this season, scoring 12.0 points and grabbing 9.6 rebounds per game. She ranks second in the Big Ten and 49th nationally with 11 double-doubles. She has 20 games scoring 10-plus points and has hauled in 10-or-more rebounds on 14 occasions in 2013-14.

 

--LADY LIONS--

East A Blessing For The Lady Lions

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By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the four seasons that senior forward Talia East has been a part of the Penn State women's basketball program, the Lady Lions have registered 98 wins, a mere 29 losses and won two Big Ten regular season titles.

"This class is accustomed to winning," said assistant coach Kia Damon. "What these ladies [the seniors] have been able to do in their four years here has been pretty remarkable."


A big reason for Penn State's success over the past four seasons can be linked to the development of East into a leader and dominant inside presence.

"Talia has represented our edge and our toughness, especially in the post," said Damon. "That's always a key component you want to have, especially as you build a team to be really, really successful. She takes pride in being our enforcer. She's from Philly and we tell her that we need the 'Philly' in her to come out every game. She does a great job of being the stabilizing force inside for us, both offensively and defensively."

In her senior season, East is posting the best numbers of her career. She has played in all 27 games, starting in 24 of those, while averaging 7.6 points per game by shooting 52 percent from the field, grabbing 7.5 rebounds per game and swatting 1.3 shots per game.

For the humble East, her on-the-court performance this year has come as a little bit of a surprise.

"Who knew?" said East. "I think just learning and focusing on getting better each game was key for me. Just putting in the time and effort has definitely paid off. I'm just so proud of what I've accomplished and how much more there is to accomplish. The season is not even close to being over."

When asked to describe her time as a Lady Lion in one word, East responded with being "blessed" to be a part of a great team each of her four seasons.

And, being the selfless person that East is, she made sure that her teammates, especially the players in her senior class, received the credit that they deserve for East's growth as a player.

"Maggie [Lucas] has definitely helped me," said East. "We've put in work before practice and after practice. Maggie's been there cheering me on since high school. Same with Ariel; we came in as freshman, and we were really there for each other with the mental game. I've been so grateful to her for that. And Dara, to have a point guard who knows what she's talking about and really knows the game definitely makes it easy to play the game."

For her teammates, the feeling is mutual.

"[Talia] has been an awesome teammate," said senior guard Maggie Lucas. "She's very competitive and fiery on the court. She really gets after it and It's been awesome to play with her."

Off the court East is anything but an enforcer. Rather, she is the jokester of the team, the clown just without the round red nose, big red shoes and colorful face paint.

"Talia helps keep things in perspective," said Damon. "She has a great sense of when to be serious and when there is a light or fun moment. I think that keeps everyone on balance."

During East's four-year career one aspect of being a Lady Lion has been a staple, her head coach.

"Coquese [Washington] is like a second mom to me," said East. "I couldn't ask for a better coach, and I honestly mean that. She's so caring, but she's hard on you when you need it. She's really just been there for me in my ups and in my downs. I definitely would not be where I am without her."

It certainly has been a memorable four years for East. Her personality has created an environment that is comfortable for her teammates to play in, especially the freshman.

But, as the season winds down and the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments can be seen over the horizon, East goes back to her senior teammates, the best friends that have been with her along the way.

"I love them," said East. "Those are the people who I started this journey with. Before there was hype around our team, before anybody thought we'd win the Big Ten; that was the three that we had. It has just been an amazing journey, and I'm just looking forward to ending it the right way."

 

--LADY LIONS--

Lady Lions Down But Not Out After Road Loss To Nebraska

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By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Maintaining a perfect road record in the Big Ten is no easy feat. Penn State found out just how hard it is last night inside a raucous Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb.

The No. 11/8 Penn State Lady Lions (21-6, 12-3 Big Ten) registered its first conference road loss, 94-74, against the No. 17/16 Nebraska Cornhuskers (21-5, 11-3) and now sit in a three-way tie atop the Big Ten standings.

Ariel Edwards led Penn State by tying a career-high with 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting. She also tied a career-high by converting four three-pointers.

At the half the Lady Lions found themselves trailing, 52-30, but head coach Coquese Washington remained determined when she talked to her team inside the locker room.

"The halftime message was to play better," said Washington. "We needed to do a better job of contesting shots. I thought in the first half they got way to many open looks and uncontested shots. We had a few miscues defensively, and if we can sure those up it would have been a little bit of a different story."

Despite Penn State's efforts, the Cornhuskers were just too hot from the field, especially from beyond the arc. Led by Tear'a Laudermill, who scored 27 points on 7-of-10 shooting from three-point range, Nebraska as a team combined to shot 72.7 percent (16-for-22) from behind the 3-point line.

"I think [this game] is one you have to flush out," said Washington. "It's easily our worst defensive performance of the year. I thought Nebraska played extremely well. I thought they capitalized on opportunities that they had and when they had open shots they made them. They were just clicking on all cylinders tonight."

Maggie Lucas was held scoreless in the first half, but she connected on three three-pointers in the second half to finish with 17 points and move within two made three-point shots of Kelly Mazzante's Big Ten and Penn State's career three-pointers record.

Nebraska was just too quick in transition and too strong shooting from the floor for Penn State to mount a comeback on the road. Even the energy inside Pinnacle Bank Arena made it easy for the Cornhuskers to score and difficult for Penn State to get anything going offensively.

After the game Washington was asked if this is a loss that her team can overcome.

"Absolutely," said Washington. "I just think it's one of those things where you go on the road and you play in a tough environment. We have some really good venues in the Big Ten where people come out to support their teams. Nebraska is one of those venues.

"We've been on the road and we've competed and we've handled our own business on the road. Tonight was a night where Nebraska played an outstanding game. As a coach, when you're on the other side, you're feeling pretty good about all your kids coming through and being focused and executing. You know, it's fun to be on that side."


With the loss the Lady Lions fall into a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten standings, but with a win in their final home game against Michigan on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in the BJC, the Blue and White can earn a share of their third straight Big Ten regular season championship.

--LADY LIONS--

What to Watch: Penn State at Nebraska

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

LINCOLN, Neb. - In the only matchup of the season, No. 11/8 Penn State and No. 17/16 Nebraska will clash Monday night in Lincoln with Big Ten regular season title implications on the line.

The Lady Lions currently sit atop the conference standings at 12-2 in conference with the Huskers right behind them at 10-3. Both teams are coming off wins their last time out; Penn State topped Northwestern on Feb. 20, 82-73, and Nebraska dispatched Ohio State in Columbus, 67-59, on Feb. 20.




Pregame Reading

What To Watch For - Penn State

Success Vs. Huskers: Penn State has won its last three contests against Nebraska and is 5-1 all-time against the Huskers. The Lady Lions are also 2-0 in games played in Lincoln. Senior guard Maggie Lucas has followed team success with personal success, averaging 23.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.8 steals in four career matchups with the Huskers.

B1G Road Success: Penn State has won a school best eight straight conference road games dating back to Mar. 3, 2013. Its last Big Ten road loss was at Minnesota on Feb. 28, 2013. The eight-straight road winning streak broke a record of seven that dated back to Jan. 31, 1999 - Jan. 16 2000.

Paint Job: On the stat sheet the Lady Lions most glaring advantage over the Huskers comes in the offensive rebound category. Penn State has 376 offensive rebounds this season, averaging over 14 per game. Nebraska's numbers are much lower at 263 on the season and 10.5 per game. Additionally, Penn State has seen consistent contributions from Talia East and Tori Waldner. Against Northwestern on Feb. 20 Waldner notched a career high 14 points in the win.

What To Watch For - Nebraska

Hooper Can Hoop: Husker senior forward Jordan Hooper will counter Maggie Lucas' scoring prowess on Monday night. Hooper comes into the contest averaging 20.2 points per game on 43.3 percent shooting from the field. Hooper has 13 20-plus point games this season and two 30-plus point games. In her last three outings she has tallied 23, 31 and 24 points and hasn't been lower than 10 points in a game since Jan. 19 vs. Purdue.

Hot Streak: Behind the strong play of Hooper, Nebraska has won its last seven games dating back to Jan. 29. Four of those sevens wins have come in double-digit fashion. In the month of February, the Huskers are on an overall 14-game winning streak. Nebraska has two more February games remaining both at home against Penn State and Illinois.

Recent Home Success: Put Penn State's road success with Nebraska's recent home success and we could be in for a good one Monday night. The Huskers have won their last three home contests by an average of 22.7 points per game and are 14-2 on the season at the new Pinnacle Bank Arena. Their only two home losses came by a combined six points against Purdue and Washington State.

 

--LADY LIONS--

Complete Team Effort Leads Lady Lions Past Wildcats

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By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 11/9 Penn State Lady Lions worked together as one team to walk away with another victory as they defeated Northwestern, 82-73, with a high level of production from all each players that stepped on the court.

It came as no surprise that senior guard Maggie Lucas continued to make huge contributions for the team as she broke the Penn State career free throw record, completing her 517th successful free throw.

The senior's performance also marked the third consecutive game where she scored 25 or more points, ending the night with 26 points - including seven free throws - to go along with four rebounds, three assists and four steals.

Lucas was able to rely on her teammates to put her in the position to be able to make key shots and add points to the scoreboard.

"I was able to find some holes in their zone [defense] and Dara [Taylor] set me up nicely a couple times," said Lucas. "Tori [Waldner] made a real nice pass to me on that four-point play. My teammates set me up with a lot of catch-and-shoot opportunities, which is something I don't get too often anymore, and I was able to take advantage of that. A couple times I used the shot-fake to get in the lane and then tied to get my teammates some looks, too."

Although Lucas was the leading scorer for the Lady Lions, she wasn't the only one making big plays. Everyone on the court stepped up adding depth and contribution amongst the players.

"We have been getting a lot more production from a lot more people in the last few games," head coach Coquese Washington said. "Tori [Waldner] stepped up and has been more of a factor and Kaliyah [Mitchell] stepped up and has made some big plays for us, so I think just that we are starting to get a little more depth and contribution is helping us fight through this grind of conference play."

Tori Waldner came into the night with a career-best of 11 points, but through aggressive play and accurate shooting, the junior was able to come out with a new career high of 14 points as she went 6-for-11 from the field.

For Waldner, thinking about her timing, slowing down the game, and making sure that she was open instead of shooting as soon as she got the ball contributed to her success on the court.

"We wanted her [Tori] to be more of a threat and I think she's starting to put together some things mentally on the court," Washington said. "She is starting to figure out how she can be more effective and I think she is slowing the game down and not rushing through things. She's not playing too fast, but playing at a pace that allows her to see the game and see what her opportunities are and being impactful that way."

Another player adding to the depth of the team is Ariel Edwards. The senior guard/forward contributed 15 points after making back-to-back three point plays late in the second half to help her gain momentum. She also added six rebounds, three assists and two steals.

It became obvious that Edwards is a versatile player for the Lady Lions as she knocked down shots from the perimeter, attacked the basket, rebounded well, and brought the ball up against the press.

"She might be one of the most underrated players in the conference because she impacts the game in so many ways," Washington said. "She did a little bit of everything for us tonight and we are not in this position without what she's done this season. I tip my hat to her because she has been an impact player for us all season long."

With 12 minutes left in the second half, Northwestern slowly closed the gap to six points before Kaliyah Mitchell scored a layup to help the Lady Lions extend their lead. As the clock continued to wind down, Mitchell faced some tense free throws, but made six consecutive from the line with under one minute left.

"The great thing was Kaliyah shot seven-for-seven from the line and we know teams are going to try and not let Maggie get the ball when its situations like that so we need other people to be able to step up and make free throws and Kaliyah did that tonight."

After four consecutive conference wins, the Lady Lions will look for continued production from every player on the court. They travel to Lincoln, Neb. with some momentum and will be looking to clinch at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title with a victory over the Cornhuskers on Monday, Feb. 24.

 

--LADY LIONS--

GAME BLOG: Lady Lions host Northwestern

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live in-game coverage on GoPSUsports.com for the No. 11/11 Penn State women's basketball contest against Northwestern on Thursday, Feb. 20 inside the Bryce Jordan Center at 7 p.m.

BLOG: What to Watch  |  BLOG: Taylor Becoming a Scorer in Final Stretch of Senior Season

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.

 

 

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Two years ago when Dara Taylor stepped on the Penn State campus after transferring from the University of Maryland as a pass-first point guard.

Earlier this season she was still a pass-first point guard. Her coaches had to constantly get on her to be more of a shooter and more aggressive. Even to the point where Taylor had to do push-ups and spend time on an exercise bike as punishment.


"When she passes up shots, I get on her about passing up shots," head coach Coquese Washington said. "If you make them or miss them it doesn't matter. You have to take them. She's a good enough shooter.

"I used to yell at her for passing up shots and if she passed up enough of them I would make her ride the bike or do some push ups or something and said 'if you don't want to shoot then we'll wear out your arms another way.' She'd rather shoot than ride the bike."

Taylor has made that clear over the second half of Big Ten play as she has scored 10 or more points in her last seven games dating back to Jan. 26. Washington credits Taylor's recent aggressiveness and consistency to her understanding of what the team needs.

The senior guard took that to heart and has since been much improved offensively and has seen the team be better off for it as well. A unique bond between Washington and her point guard has allowed Taylor to excel over the past season.

That bond is that they both are point guards and have the mindset of point guard, which Taylor says is the bulk of the reason why her mentality has changed and her play has improved.

"She [Coquese] was a point guard herself so from stepping on campus to now the growth I've had rests a lot on her shoulders," Taylor said. "She's constantly telling me what to look for and the reads to make and I think I've grown in that department based off of her."

Being able to interact with her head coach and ask for advice and criticisms has made Taylor more open to shooting because she now believes is it what her team needs.

"Down the stretch with the games remaining if Coquese needs me to shoot more, score more and be aggressive that's what I have to do for the team," she said. "With coach and my teammates putting that confidence in me I really don't mind taking those shots if that's what the team needs me to do. I'm fine with that."

Washington has commended Taylor's ability to make that change and embrace the role. With three regular season games and postseason play remaining in her Lady Lion career, Taylor has blossomed into the guard Washington wanted her to be when she first arrived on campus.

The key to that, in Washington's eyes, is that she is her own type of point guard. Not a mirror image of previous Lady Lion point guard Alex Bentley, but her own brand with her own type of contributions to the team.

"She's really grown into understanding how to be a point guard here at Penn State and what we want her to do is just play and lead the team," Washington said. "She's done it in a way that is authentic and comfortable for her.

"We still wanted to be an up tempo team and expect the point guard to be the leader of the team and the voice of the team and she has embraced all of those and done a fantastic job of being a leader on the court."

Taylor will have another chance to avoid push-ups or the exercise bike as Penn State faces Northwestern Thursday at 7 p.m. where her coach will be looking for her to, as always, shoot the ball.

 

--LADY LIONS--

What To Watch: Penn State hosts Northwestern

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On of the toughest tests for No. 11/9 Penn State so far in Big Ten play came on Feb. 2 at Northwester, a 79-75 victory. In that game, the Wildcats (14-11, 4-8) led by four points with three minutes to go, but the Lady Lions (20-5, 11-2) closed the game on a 13-5 run to claim a big road victory.

The Lady Lions will be looking to improve their home court record to 5-2 on the year and continue their success against Wildcats in Happy Valley. Penn State is 32-7 all-time vs. Northwestern - winning eight straight games - and own an 17-1 record at home in the series.



Pregame Reading
What To Watch For - Penn State

Limiting Turnovers: Penn State has taken care of the basketball at home this season, averaging just 12.6 turnovers per game, including just seven in their victory over Wisconsin on Sunday. On the road, however, Penn State is giving the ball away nearly 19 times per game. That was a huge reason why their first meeting with Northwestern was decided by just four points. Penn State turned the ball over 21 times and the Wildcats scored 19 points on those missteps.

First in Freebies: Penn State has attempted more free throws than any other Big Ten team, leading to more made freebies than their conference colleagues. Penn State's 606 attempts from the charity stripe are over 30 more their Iowa's 570 and their 468 makes are over 30 more than Purdue's 430. Penn State is shooting .772 from the free throw line, which ranks third in the Big Ten and 12th nationally.

Just One Left: If you haven't been to the Bryce Jordan Center for a regular season game yet this season, you are running out of time. Though Penn State will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament, they have just one "true" home game left - Senior Day on March 4. There are few senior classes that have left an imprint like this quartet. Talia East, Ariel Edwards, Maggie Lucas and Dara Taylor bleed blue and white, so get your tickets now and, who know, you might even get to see another Big Ten title clinched on the court.

What To Watch For - Northwestern

Freshman Phenom: There are a handful of impact freshman in the Big Ten this season and Northwestern's Nia Coffey is one of them. She ranks among the top-15 in the conference in scoring (15.8), rebounds (7.8), steals (1.8) and blocked shots (2.0). She is among the top eight in points, rebounds and blocks, but missed the first meeting between the two teams due to injury.

B1G Blocks: As mentioned in the "What to Watch" in our previous meeting with Northwestern, the Wildcats can block shots. Northwestern swatted seven Penn State shots in their Feb. 2 meeting and continue to lead the conference with 7.2 blocks per game. That average is nearly 2.5 blocks per game better than the No. 2 team in the conference (Iowa, 4.9) and helps the Wildcats limit opponents to the 3rd lowest field goal percentage (.372).

Taking Care of the Rock: When you have a stout inside presence, you can make teams play out on the perimeter and that can lead to steals. That is something Northwestern does very well. On top of leading the conference in blocks per game, they rank second in the Big Ten with 8.9 steals per game. That helps them force 17.9 turnovers per game - they forced 21 Penn State turnovers in the first meeting - which contributes to their plus-2.36 turnover margin.

 

--LADY LIONS--

Pink Zone Shows Basketball Is More Than A Game

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By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - "When life kicks you, let it kick you forward."

Those were the words said by the late, great Kay Yow, former North Carolina State University head women's basketball coach who passed away in 2009 of stage four breast cancer.

9718870.jpegIn her honor, the Kay Yow Cancer Fund was created in 2007 and the WBCA Pink Zone was formed. Now, her fund is one of six beneficiaries of the Pennsylvania Pink Zone.

And even though No. 11/11 Penn State (20-5, 11-2) defeated conference foe Wisconsin (10-15, 3-10), 78-68, on Sunday, Feb. 16 at the Bryce Jordan Center, it was more than just a game of basketball.

Just ask one of the 698 breast cancer survivors in attendance for the Eight Annual Pink Zone at Penn State.

"It is just so neat to have people acknowledge what we've been through," said 18-year breast cancer survivor and State College resident Linda McKean. "Everyone is so supportive of this cause. It's just amazing what they do."

McKean was part of 3,499 years and six months worth of breast cancer survivorship present at the game yesterday, to not only cheer on the Lady Lions, but also to also raise awareness for the disease that gave her the battle of her life 18 years ago.

The entire arena, packed with 12,585 fans, was covered from head to toe in pink. From the 12,000 pink shakers, to the 10,000 pink light up bands, to the pink shirts, to the cheerleaders and dancers' pink pompoms.

There were also pink hats, the Penn State pink-trimmed jerseys with pink shoes, all the way to Penn State head coach Coquese Washington's pink skirt.


The entire Bryce Jordan Center lit up in pink was an extraordinary site for an extraordinary cause.

"It is a phenomenal day for us," said Washington. "There are so many people partner with our program from the community and from within Intercollegiate Athletics for this cause. They give their time and efforts to make this day a special celebration for the survivors.

"Every year we have this opportunity to celebrate people who are battling breast cancer and the courage, the fight and the determination that it takes to do that day-in and day-out. This is our way of honoring them and giving back to them. It means a lot to me."


One in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. At yesterday's game it was announced that after eight years in existence the Pennsylvania Pink Zone had surpassed the $1-million mark in funds raised.

It simply is amazing what a group of determined people can accomplish when they all have a common goal: to find a cure.

"The fight against breast cancer transcends the game," said Wisconsin head coach Bobbie Kelsey. "The game is a way to show them that we really are fighting with them as far as raising money. Penn State does a great job and we try to do our part as well to raise money for breast cancer research. My aunt had breast cancer and she survived. Hopefully, one day there will be a cure and we won't have to play these games."

It was clear that the players understood the meaning of yesterday's contest, too. The game was about more than just winning and losing.

"We love Pink Zone," said Penn State senior forward Talia East. "It is a game where we go out and give our all. Coquese [Washington] talked to us about playing outside of ourselves and playing for all of the survivors and people who are going through treatment that were in the arena. We were just so happy and blessed to be able to play for them."

 

--LADY LIONS--