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Spann Shining in Debut Season

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By Mike Esse, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Lindsey Spann set out a plan prior to her arrival to Penn State in the summer of 2013, one that included her being on the court during her first college basketball season. However, it turned out to be the exact opposite of what she planned: sitting on the bench due to an injury that sidelined her for an entire season.

She played the waiting game, while rehabbing and training so she could be playing at a top level upon her return to the court in her debut Lady Lion season.

It's safe to say in the early stages of the 2014-'15 season this part of Spann's new plan of excelling on the court is panning out just fine.

The redshirt freshman is in the top two on the team in minutes played, points, assists, steals and free throw percentage six games into the season. She has also led the team in scoring in three of its six games and has yet to post a game without a double-digit point total.

Her head coach says the explanation of her success is simple: an unmatched work ethic.

"Lindsey is a competitor," head coach Coquese Washington said. "She killed it in the training room last year. She was remarkable with her work ethic coming back from her knee injury. It says a lot about her determination to be able to come back and step right in and not miss a beat physically."

Spann spent countless hours in the training room rehabbing and getting stronger in efforts to be ready for this season, while having to deal with the tough reality of not being able to play day in and day out.

"The hardest part about it was not being able to play," Spann said. "It was just about keeping a positive attitude and knowing that everything was going to be alright and everything happens for a reason and I had to work to get better."

Her efforts to return to the court did not go unnoticed in the Lady Lion locker room.

"You can definitely see that she worked really hard in the offseason to get back to where she is now," fellow guard Sierra Moore said. "I think she has grown more and matured more as a player even though she is a freshman on the court I think that experience of watching the game and getting to know it is an advantage as a point guard. "

Although it may not seem like it's true, there were many benefits for Spann as she sat out the 2013-'14 season, some of which are visible with her play this season.

Spann was able to watch tremendous guards and leaders in Maggie Lucas and Dara Taylor and see how they approached the game both as players and as leaders.

"I realized that I needed to bring a lot more energy and be loud and encouraging and become a leader that's demanding of what we expect of each other," Spann said.

Washington agreed.

"I think being able to watch it and see it up close gave her some perspective," the head coach said. "Lindsey is a different type of leader and different type of leader for this team. The things she picked up on were the impact that the point guard has on the team and how the point guard has to be the engine and the heart of the team."

Now, with that season behind her, Spann is taking all of her experiences and see them come full circle and Washington is not surprised with the outcome.

"She has a pretty high basketball IQ and as she's adjusting to the speed of the game and the contact of the game she's getting better and better every night out," Washington said. "She has confidence in her abilities and that's allowed her to step into the starting point guard spot as a freshman and have a measure of success."

Penn State heads to Syracuse on Thursday for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Tip is at 7 p.m.

Happy Thanksgiving from Penn State Athletics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - 'Tis the season for giving thanks, and the Penn State Athletics would like to take an opportunity to say thank you to the loyal fans on Thanksgiving.

As you sit down with family and friends to eat your traditional meal while the Lions and Cowboys host their annual Thanksgiving day home games, Penn State Athletics would like to thank you, the fans, for the unrivaled support you give every team on campus.  Penn State's teams would not be the same without the greatest fans in college sports.

As a token of their appreciation, several student-athletes from teams on campus would like to say thank you and Happy Thanksgiving for the support you give them throughout the athletic season.

Despite Outcome, A Game of Firsts For Young Lady Lions

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10565481.jpegBy Gabrielle Richards, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It has been 14 years since the Lady Lions and the Seton Hall Pirates have battled it out on the court. In the 10th meeting of the series on Saturday evening in the Bryce Jordan Center, the Lady Lions came up on the short end of a seesaw 75-70 decision.

The Lady Lions are a young team. With only one returning starter, Penn State is starting a sophomore-heavy team, a reality that head coach Coquese Washington believes was clear in Saturday's game.

"I think our youth showed tonight," Washington said. "We need to get more confident and comfortable playing with one another at this pace."

Despite the loss, there are some major takeaways from this game that the Lady Lions can use to their advantage heading into their matchup against St. Bonaventure on Tuesday.

The Lady Lions got off to a slow start, with their first bucket coming three minutes into the game after the Pirates put nine on the board. Penn State cut into the deficit, but the Pirates pulled away with a 21-8 lead with 10 minutes before the half.

"I feel like it got away from us from the jump," junior Candice Agee said. "We fought hard to stay in the game and get back in it, but at the end Seton Hall got the better of us. We have to give it up to them for that."

Agee was superb for the Lady Lions, leading the team with 21 points in Saturday's contest, along with five rebounds and two blocks. Agee took command inside the paint for the 17 minutes she was on the court, helping the Lady Lions stay in the game until the very end.

"I just want to play hard," Agee said. "I want to be able to do what needs to be done for my team and what is asked of me. If some nights it looks like a 20 point game, then that is alright with me."

Sophomore Sierra Moore posted a career-high game, tallying 14 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and a block. Moore was a major asset during the game playing for 37 minutes, the most on the team.

"Whatever is asked of us, we do." Moore said. "We all take turns in practice (playing point guard); that's what practice is for."

Regardless of the slow start, it is obvious that this young Lady Lion team is hungry. Coach Washington took her team to the locker room at half time trailing the Pirates 37-29.

"We talked about playing a little bit faster and moving the ball (in the second half)," Washington said. "We had a lot more energy in the second than the first."

The Lady Lions turned on the offensive strategy taking the lead, 40-39, five minutes into the second half. The Lions closed to within one at 71-70, but that is as close as they would get down the stretch. Fouls and turnovers in the last 30 seconds hindered the Lions in the 75-70 loss, an issue coach Washington believes will work itself out.

"We have to do a better job at the free throw line," Washington said. "I think that if we can fix a few small things, we aren't that far away. We are three games in and I am still getting to know this team. We rallied back and put ourselves in a position to tie it, even possibly force overtime. This is the learning curve, the growing pains of a young team."

Up Next
The Lady Lions take on St. Bonaventure on Tuesday at the Bryce Jordan Center. Following Tuesday's contest, they will travel to Atlanta, Georgia, for the Georgia State Thanksgiving Tournament Nov. 28-30. 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Lady Lions close out the Preseason WNIT on Saturday against Seton Hall, a matchup that has been on hiatus since 1998. With one exhibition game and two preseason matchups under its belt, the young Lady Lion basketball team is ready to place another 'W' in the win column.

Seton Hall's style of play is something similar to what Penn State demonstrates on the court; attack in transition.

Heading into this Saturday's game, head coach Coquese Washington and her staff are firm that if the team can attack the paint in transition, the Lady Lions will come out on top.

"We've got to get more free throws," said coach Washington. "We've got to get more pressure on the defense by attacking the paint."

The Lady Lions are known to be a fast-paced team that can sink baskets on transition. This season, the key to execute just that is point guard Lindsey Spann. A newcomer to the starting lineup, the Laurel, Maryland native is leading the Blue and White in scoring after posting 14 points against Albany and 17 against Towson last week.

"She's a fantastic point guard," said coach Washington. "She has a really high basketball IQ. She sees the floor and has a knack for scoring."

Spann isn't only focusing on her offensive contributions but how she can further aid on defense.

"I'm working on hustling, being more aggressive on defense, getting deflections and steals," said Spann.

Washington knows that the Lady Lion defense will have to be prepared when the Pirates come to University Park.

They're a pretty aggressive team," said Washington. "They've got really quick guards who do a great job attacking the basket. They're going to put pressure on our defense with their dribble penetration."

Senior Tori Waldner's experience and height is no secret for the Lady Lion defense. Waldner has tallied 20 rebounds in two games. However, the Lady Lion defense is looking to increase its total boards across the roster tomorrow.

"Seton Hall throws up a lot of shots," assistant coach Itoro Coleman said. "We have to rebound. They move very quickly in their offense and there will be plenty of opportunities for us to rebound. How well we are able to get the 50/50 balls will determine who will win this game."

The Lady Lions will tip off with Seton Hall on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center. 

DeGraaf Shines Against Albany

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10543101.jpegBy Mike Esse, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In a game that was back and forth for the duration of the contest, Penn State and Albany traded big shot after big shot.

With 1:28 to go and down three, Penn State's big shot came from sharpshooter Jenny DeGraaf, who nailed a 3-pointer from the wing to tie the game at 53-53.

DeGraaf gave a fist pump and tried to get the Lady Lion crowd in the Bryce Jordan Center on its feet. Both her shooting and her energy are what head coach Coquese Washington wants to see as a constant from DeGraaf this season. It's safe to say she got it on Sunday.

The sophomore was 4-for-4 with a career-high 12 points, all of which came in the three-point fashion in Penn State's 54-53 setback to Albany. DeGraaf said she was successful off the bench Sunday because she knew that was exactly how the coaches wanted her to play and perform.

"Our coaching staff has talked to all of us about our roles. I know that's my role," DeGraaf said. "I know I have to come in the game and be an offensive spurt and that's what I try to do. The girls got me the ball when they could and I was able to knock down some shots."

Washington and the Lady Lion coaching staff made it clear that DeGraaf would be a shooting threat off the bench and the Springboro, Ohio, native has took that to heart.

As a coach, Washington said that it is a luxury not only to have a sharpshooter off the bench, but especially one that knows exactly what she is asked of when she enters the game. Penn State tried to establish and inside presence against the Great Danes and couldn't entirely do so, thus DeGraaf was able to take advantage of the Albany focus on the interior and succeed from the exterior.

"The thing is, we wanted to get more looks inside with our size, but [Albany] did a pretty good job of packing the paint and making it tough for us to get those looks inside," Washington said. "The fact that we can bring Jenny in and she can make some shots off the bench against a zone defense is big."

Coaches look for two things from bench players, according to Washington - the player to affect the game statistically and emotionally. DeGraaf did just that against Albany.

Her 12 points and perfect shooting from downtown directly affected the statistical part of the game, but it was hard to miss what happened after that. DeGraaf would wave her arms to pump up the crowd or high five her teammates with noticeable passion and energy, sparking the Lady Lions.

"That's what you want from somebody who comes off the bench," Washington said. "You want them to be somebody to affect the momentum of the game and you can do that in a number of ways.

You can do it statistically, but you can also do it emotionally and today Jenny did both. She came off the bench and gave us a lift both emotionally and statistically."

DeGraaf's impact was felt on all aspects of the game and in the postgame press conference Albany head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson noted that her team struggled covering Penn State's three-point threat.

"Our game plan was to make them take outside shots," she said. "But, not [Jenny DeGraaf], we weren't supposed to be letting her shoot from out there,"

DeGraaf's career day will be one she humbly thinks she still can improve on and take with her moving forward as she continues to try and improve her impact on the Lady Lions.

However, it was certainly visible on Sunday.

LIVE BLOG: Lady Lions Host Albany

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live in-game coverage on for the Penn State women's basketball preseason WNIT second round contest against Albany on Sunday, November 16 inside the Bryce Jordan Center.

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.

Live Blog Lady Lions Host Albany

LIVE BLOG: Lady Lions Host Albany

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live in-game coverage on for the Penn State women's basketball preseason WNIT second round contest against Albany on Sunday, November 16 inside the Bryce Jordan Center.

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.

Live Blog Lady Lions Host Albany

LIVE BLOG: Lady Lions Host Albany

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live in-game coverage on for the Penn State women's basketball preseason WNIT second round contest against Albany on Sunday, November 16 inside the Bryce Jordan Center.

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.

Live Blog Lady Lions Host Albany

Preseason WNIT Brings Unique Start to Season

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By Mike Esse, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After months of practice and an exhibition game, the long-awaited season opener for the Penn State Lady Lions takes place Friday at the Bryce Jordan Center against Towson. With a team filled with youth and talent, excitement for the season opener is extremely high for Lady Lion coaches and players.

The noon tip begins the Preseason WNIT for Penn State, a unique way to start the season in a tournament format.

"It's a great experience opportunity for our group," said assistant coach Kia Damon. "We're still gelling and coming together and figuring out our roles and how all of this is going to come together on the court in competitive situations. The more games we can play, especially early, the more we can get a read on where we need to go moving forward."

Penn State has only participated in the Preseason WNIT one other time in program history back in 2002 when they finished in second place. Head coach Coquese Washington said that the format of the tournament presents a lot of benefits for her young team that has limited experience in an NCAA postseason tournament situation.

The tournament is pieced together just like postseason tournaments: the more you win, the more you play. Washington said having that mindset is a great benefit for her young team.

"It allows us to focus on one game at a time," Washington said. "We don't know what's going on in the other brackets all we can control and even focus on is Towson. With a young team that is pretty helpful to focus on one game at a time. You talk about it and you say it but kids start to look at the schedule but for us, you can't look ahead."

Washington hopes a long sustained run in the tournament can be a teaching point come March when the conference and postseason tournaments come around.

"If we are fortunate enough to advance through the tournament we know we are going to play some really talented teams every round," she said. "That's the biggest benefit I see you are playing in postseason mentality from the very beginning of the season."

As for the season's first opponent, Towson provides unique challenges for the Lady Lions according to Damon. Traditionally, the Tigers have switched from zone and man defenses, providing a little more preparation for the Lady Lions.

Damon said the coaches have told the players about the difficulty in attacking such a defense, but at the end of the day the Lady Lion brand of basketball they have implemented is the only style that will bring success.

"It can be a little tricky to attack so you have to be on your p's and q's and be alert," Damon said. "We're going to do what we normally do and execute our game plan and see where that gets us. We are faced pace advantage basketball and we are known for playing in transition is what we are known for and we're going to continue that."

A Lady Lion win Friday would bring a quick turn around, as they would play Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center. 

Lady Lions Building From Exhibition Against IUP

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10497136.jpegBy Mike Esse, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach Coquese Washington has been very straightforward when evaluating her 2014-'15 Lady Lion basketball team - they are young and are a work in progress with a huge upside. Washington had that evaluation solely from practice and workouts prior to Sunday's exhibition game against IUP, the first time her new look team took the court together in a game like environment.

Although the 75-71 win won't count on the season record, there were many takeaways from the hard fought win over the Crimson Hawks.

Good To Be Back
The much-anticipated return to the court of guards Lindsey Spann and Sierra Moore started off well in their first appearance as Lady Lions.

Moore, who transferred from Duke and sat out all of last season, tallied 18 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes on the floor. She also shot efficiently from the field, shooting 61.5 percent and tallied 17 of her 18 points in the second half.

"It was great to be back on the court with the people you love," Moore said. "It's our family, so to get out there are practicing [with them all of last year] and finally play in front of your home crowd was great."

Spann's return was equally as impressive, as her final line featured 14 points, four assists and three rebounds in 37 minutes of play. Sunday marked Spann's first time in a college game like experience, as she was injured for the entire 2013-'14 season after suffering an ACL injury.

She was able to command the offense and provide a noticeable presence on defense in her first time playing with a Lady Lion jersey on.

"For it to be my first college game I was excited and I enjoyed it," she said.

Her head coach enjoyed it, too.

"I thought Lindsey did a pretty good job of running the team for a freshman who has never played a game before, and also playing with other new players," Washington said. "It's not like she is walking in the door and she is a freshman with some experience around her. I thought she did a fantastic job of leading the team and running the team."

Spreading The Wealth
Penn State had four players in double figures, and it seemed like one of the four players shined at different points of the game. Kaliyah Mitchell and Jenny DeGraaf joined Spann and Moore in double figures with 12 and 11 points, respectively.

"That is one of the pleasant surprises about this team," she said. ""We don't necessarily have that one player that we have to rely on, but we can get contributions from a lot of people."

The sharpshooting DeGraaf provided sparks in both halves, going 3-for-3 in the first half and 1-for-2 in the second with two three pointers and four total rebounds in 24 minutes of play. Junior College transfer Dominique Brooks and sophomore Keke Sevillian also chipped in with eight combined points, five rebounds, three steals and a block.

All three players came off of the bench for Penn State, adding to the scoring depth on the roster.

"Our bench production will be good this year," Washington said. "Our bench can be really impactful for us and allow everybody to step up at different times and make plays."

Owning The Glass
The Lady Lions had its largest statistical advantage in the rebounding category Sunday afternoon. Led by Peyton Whitted who had 10 boards, the blue and white out-rebounded the Crimson Hawks 48 to 27.

Besides Whitted, there were four other players with five-plus rebounds, including Mitchell's nine and Moore's seven. Penn State's work on the glass led to 48 points in the paint and 14 second-chance points.

Work inside was perhaps the equalizer and eventual difference as the Crimson Hawks attempted 32 three pointers, many of which Penn State was able to collect off the miss.

"We use our size to impact the boards," Washington said. "We do a good job of getting out of transition and now we just have to get better at the decision making aspect and making sure those are positive plays."

Things To Work On
There are still categories Penn State needs to improve on as their young squad continues to mold.

On the state sheet, the most glaring category that needs improvement is taking care of the basketball. Penn State gave the ball up 20 times compared to IUP's 12 turnovers. Both players and coaches said that is a product of young and inexperienced players in a fast paced game environment.

"I think some of it was rushing," Spann said. "We just needed to calm down and not rush things. From both a passer and a receiver, we just need to take care of the ball."

Communication is also something Washington wants to see improve, but she knows that is a byproduct of having a younger team.

"We have to get our communication better," Washington said. "When you ask what we did well, it is 'we did this well but.' We have to get better, but I am confident we will."

Scheme-wise, the one area Penn State was in an uncomfortable situation was when IUP when into a zone defense. In years past, Maggie Lucas was a source of bail out for Penn State, but now there is not one singular answer to a zone defense.

Washington said that improvement will come by continuing to practice a zone offense and ways to teach her players how to attack it better. She did say though, at times her players handled the zone the right way.

"I think you saw flashes of when we move the ball we can give our shooters open shot sand we can get shots for our cutters in different spots," Washington said.

Penn State is back in action with the preseason WNIT on Friday Nov. 14 at noon against Towson at the Bryce Jordan Center.


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