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By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The year has seen its fair share of ups and downs, but the Lady Lions aim to end the season on a high-note with a bid to the Women's National Invitational Tournament.

 

Head Coquese Washington and her squad will be prepared to take on Ohio at the Bryce Jordan Center this Friday at 7 p.m. This marks the first time in postseason play for the Penn State since 2014, where the Lady Lions made it to the third round of the NCAA tournament.

 

This year's WNIT berth is the first for Penn State since 2010 and the third in program history. The Blue and White won the inaugural event back in 1998 and now boast a 4-1 record in tournament play. The Lady Lions will be just one of six teams competing that have won it all before, joining Missouri State (2005), Wyoming (2007), Oklahoma State (2012), Drexel (2013) and South Dakota (2016).

 

In the first round, Penn State has the task of trying to tame the visiting Ohio Bobcats. As one of five teams representing the Mid-American Conference, the Bobcats put up a 22-9 record while going 12-6 in conference play. During the regular season, Ohio split its games against Big Ten competition, defeating Illinois but falling to Michigan.


A key matchup in this contest to watch for is the high scoring guard play between the Penn State's Teniya Page and Ohio's Quiera Lampkins. Just 0.2 points per game separates these two in the national rankings, where Page sits 20th in the country with the exact same number of points per game, meanwhile Lampkins trails slightly behind at No. 24 in the nation with 19.8.

 

The Lady Lions will have to be careful with how they handle the ball against the Bobcats, as they hold the NCAA's 18th best turnover margin at a plus-5.9 clip. Penn State will hope the home atmosphere can counter that production, posting a 14-1 record at home. Ohio has found most of its woes when away from Athens, Ohio, going a combined 8-7 when away or at a neutral location.

 

If Penn State is able to pick up the win Friday night and advance, a matchup awaits with the winner of Georgetown (17-12, 9-9 Big East) or Fordham (21-11, 11-5 Atlantic 10).

 

Each team presents its own challenge and could prove to be an interesting adversary in the second round.

 

On one hand, Fordham has a very stingy defense. The Rams are the 16th best in the country at defending teams beyond the arc, limiting opponents to just 27.6 percent from deep. They also make sure teams have to earn their points, only allowing teams to score an average of 56.0 points per game, good for the No. 20 spot nationally. That should be a solid test for the Lady Lions offense that owns a top-50 offense with 73.3 points per game.

 

On the other hand, the Hoyas of Georgetown beat their opponents by creating opportunities while limiting the same for their foes. The Big East team ranks in the top 50 in the country in offensive rebounds per game (15 orpg, 29th), steals per game (9.7 spg, 47th) and turnover margin (+4.24, 34th). Don't expect them to cough the ball up either, as Georgetown commits the ninth fewest turnovers nationwide with just 370 over the year.

 

Penn State has played each in the last two seasons. The Hoyas bested the Lady Lions this year, 68-54, in the San Juan Shootout, while the Blue and White took out Fordham, 79-75, last season at home.

 

In the Lady Lions' only other WNIT appearances, they were a first round out (2010) and won it all (1998). It's a small sample size, but if the trend continues, this weekend's matchups could determine Penn State's postseason destiny. 

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By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Lady Lions are headed back to the postseason for the first time since the 2013-2014 season. That year, veteran players Peyton Whitted and Kaliyah Mitchell were freshmen and saw time on the court in the NCAA tournament on a team that superstar Maggie Lucas led to the Sweet 16. 

Now leaders themselves, Whitted, Mitchell, Lindsey Spann, who did not play and redshirted in 2013-14, and Sierra Moore, who was in Happy Valley but sat out that season due to NCAA transfer rules, are ready to put what they learned in that postseason run to try and make another. 

"My freshman year showed me that when you work hard it pays off and you're able to keep playing," Mitchell said. "Looking at the [2013-14] seniors, it was what they wanted to do, just keep playing as long as possible. It was something that they worked towards, so I think now that I am in their shoes, it's helped me this season and let me know what I want to work towards."

Penn State will face Ohio in the first round of the WNIT on Friday at the Bryce Jordan Center. After missing out on postseason play the last two years, Whitted is excited to extend this season. 

"We're just happy to play some more. It's going to be really competitive. Ohio's a really competitive team so we're just looking to survive and advance," Whitted said. "It means a lot that we get to play past the Big Ten Tournament. That's exciting and I'm excited to keep playing. I want to play as long as I can while I'm here."

The four veterans have experienced the highs and lows of playing college basketball over the past four years. They went from contenders in the Sweet 16 to a 6-24 record the next season, before building the program back up to a team that is on the verge of the program's 27th 20-win season. Despite the adversity they've faced, there's nothing they would have wanted to change. 

"I learned a lot being on a great team and then being on a struggling team and now to bring us back to the success that we had my freshman year," Whitted said after Senior Day this year. "It's just a great life lesson because not everything is going to go perfect in your life so it's just about how you respond. I'm very appreciative for everything that's happened and I don't regret any of it because I've learned a lot from it."

Added Mitchell: "Honestly, being in that moment is really tough because a lot of things were going on. The season wasn't going right, my game wasn't at its best, so going through that also helps you at times like this to remember what you went through and how you don't want to go through that again." 

Head coach Coquese Washington is confident in her veteran players' ability to continue to lead the team. Both Whitted and Mitchell are team captains this year, and Washington agrees that their prior postseason experience will only help them in this year's tournament. 

"I think it'll be a really good experience for them, something for them to draw on," Washington said. "Now it's their turn to lead the charge and they've done a fantastic job this season, as I've said all along, of providing good leadership for us and helping us lead this young team back to postseason play so I know they'll be up for the challenge." 

Year in and year out, Washington preaches that she wants her players to play their best basketball in March. And with her team finally doing just that, she says there's a good vibe around the BJC. 

"You work hard during the regular season to be in a position to continue the season and continue to practice, continue to work on growing and building on a foundation, and it's a lot of fun, it's a lot of excitement and there's a good buzz in the gym," Washington said.

The first round of the WNIT tips at 7 p.m. on Friday in the BJC.   


By Jeff Sattora, GoPSUsports.com
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.- Despite a new career-high from their all-star point guard, the Penn State Lady Lions weren't able to claw out of an early hole, and fell to the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 70-64 in the Big Ten Tournament Thursday night. 

On Monday, the sophomore standout point guard Teniya Page earned First Team All-Big Ten honors, and Thursday night in Indianapolis she played like a first team performer.

The guard dropped in 13 of the Lady Lions' 17 first quarter points, 12 of those points coming on 3-point field goals, keeping the Lady Lions in the game despite a hot start from the Golden Gophers, as Minnesota held a 26-17 lead after one.    

After Minnesota hit five 3's in the first and PSU turned the ball over seven times in that quarter, the script flipped as those numbers were zero and two respectively in the second.  Penn State used those numbers to its advantage, as they cut the deficit to just 33-29 at the break. 

"I think it just took us a quarter to kind of feel them out," Washington said on the switch between quarters. "Once we kind of figured out the game and the way the game was being called and things of that nature, we just kind of settled in."

The third saw the Lady Lions continue to fight, as they took their first lead of the game at 43-41 with 3:23 to play in the quarter. 

While the comeback attempt came up short, Washington was proud of how her team battled back from what was a 12-point Gophers' first half lead.  

"I think we really tried to rally back. Minnesota got off to a good start in the first quarter. And then I thought the second quarter our defense locked in pretty well and made it a game. And then we just competed down the stretch," she said. 

Leading that competitive charge was Page, who finished the night with a career-high and Penn State Big Ten Tournament record, 35 points on 11-22 shooting. 

"Just get to my spots, shoot, people were finding me," the guard said on how she was able to light up the score sheet.  "Attack the basket, that's pretty much it." 

 While Page's attacking style lit up the box score, another guard, Sierra Moore, also stepped up finishing with 13 points and 11 boards on the night for her first double-double of the season. 

Moore also credited an aggressive style for her success.

"I just kept crashing the boards," she said.  "I know Minnesota is one of the best rebounders in the conference so I knew I had to just keep going in their and keep fighting until the end."  

For Washington, the performance by those two is what made her team go. 


"They've been key players for us all season long. And they're the barometer. You know coming into every game that they're going to compete, they're going to fight. And they did the same thing," she said on her team's leaders tonight.  "I thought Sierra got some big offensive rebounds and made some big plays for us in the fourth quarter. And Teniya was fantastic all night. So those two certainly came with a lot of energy, a lot of effort and made a lot of big plays for us.

While Penn State didn't get the result they came to Indy looking for, they are hoping to continue postseason play in the NIT Tournament in the coming weeks.  

"it's something we've got to talk about as a team." Washington said.  "We're competitors and the opportunity to continue to play is something that we'll look forward to."

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By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Teniya Page burst onto the scene last year as a highly touted true freshman and followed that up with a stellar sophomore season this year.

Page was named First Team All-Big Ten this week after averaging 19.4 points per game, good for No. 25 nationally and No. 5 in the Big Ten. That's more than four points higher than her 15.3 ppg last year when she was named Second Team All-Big Ten by the coaches. 

Improving her aggressiveness in the past year was key for Page to avoid the sophomore slump. Her confidence in herself and her teammates has also gone up, and it's shown on the floor.

"I think the biggest improvement has been my aggressiveness and having a lot more confidence in myself and my teammates to help me out and get me open," Page said. "A big thing that people have always told me is 'individual accolades come from team success' and I probably wouldn't have made first-team had we not had so much team success."

 Head coach Coquese Washington agrees, saying that Page is more willing to lead her team on the floor rather than just wait for the plays to come to her.

"It's her taking advantage of her matchup and she's become a lot more aggressive this year and a lot more confident," Washington said. "I think she has a lot of trust from her teammates and the trust that her teammates have in her has allowed her to be a lot more aggressive and assertive and willing to take over the game and play big."

Even as a young player, Page is very knowledgeable of the game and is always trying to get better. Her "bring it everyday" attitude has put her on a mission to make every play her best yet and has helped her to "play big in the biggest moments," according to Washington. 

"Teniya, she's in pursuit of the perfect basketball play every single time down the floor," Washington said. "She's got a high basketball IQ and one of the thing's we've encouraged her to do is broaden her view of what the perfect basketball play is because sometimes that means her doing some things that you can't draw up on a play board." 

Page is in elite company as a Lady Lion first team all-conference honoree. She's the first to receive the honor since Maggie Lucas got it in 2013-14 and is just the sixth Penn State sophomore to get the award. Page joins Lucas, Alex Bentley, Kelly Mazzante, Tina Nicholson, Angie Potthoff, and Tanisha Wright as other sophomores to be named to the first team.

Having coached both Lucas and Bentley, Washington sees a lot of similarities between Page and the two Lady Lion greats. 

"The one thing she has in common with some of those other players is her competitive fire," Washington said. "She loves and wants to win. Maggie Lucas wanted to win every drill in every practice, Alex Bentley wanted to win and that competitive fire is the thing that fuels her and I think that's another intangible that really makes her special." 

Despite the comparison to Bentley and Lucas, Page remains humble about the honor - she was asleep when it was announced and didn't find out until someone texted her. But for her, it's not about the individual accomplishments, and it never has been. 

"It wasn't a dream or goal or anything, it was kind of something that just happened," Page said. "I just go play and see what happens [but] to make it as a sophomore is a good thing. [My dream is] to win. 20-wins [in a season], win a Big Ten championship, play in the [NCAA] tournament, a Sweet 16 appearance, possibly an Elite Eight. So just win." 

Page will look to make at least one of those dreams a reality this week when the No. 7 seed Lady Lions take the floor for the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis. After securing a first round bye, they will face No. 10 seed Minnesota on Thursday with tip set for 6:30 p.m.

Black History Month Features: Coquese Washington

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By Simone Lee, GoPSUSports.com student special feature writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Lady Lion head coach Coquese Washington. A name recognized by so many, both at Penn State and throughout the entire nation. In her 10th season at the helm of the program, Washington is in a category of her own. 

Arriving at Penn State, Washington became Penn State's first African American female head coach in Happy Valley. Her selfless passion for the betterment of her student-athletes as well as the community, all demonstrate her commitment in shaping Nittany Lion athletics history. 

Throughout her tenure, Washington's long list of accomplishments only continues to grow. A member of the Greater Flint Hall of Fame, a three-time Big Ten Coach of the Year honoree and a two-time Black Coaches Association (BCA) Female Coach of the Year recipient, these honors are just a sampling of her career highlights. 

Since arriving on campus, Washington has brought the Lady Lions back into the national spotlight, igniting energy on the court to change the program for the better. 

Washington however, cares not just about her team's performance on the court though, placing just as much emphasis on how her teams spend time off the court too. 

"We try to expose our student-athletes to all the various aspects of what the human condition means and it has to be about us being external," Washington said. "Getting out of our comfort zone, getting outside of our own world that can be quite insular at times, and being exposed to a variety of things - when you do that I think that empathy, sympathy and connection to others just grows."

Washington's emphasis on linking the Lady Lions basketball program with community initiatives has been an ongoing piece of the foundation of the program since she first arrived at Penn State.

Establishing one of her first community outreach projects, Washington partnered with the Centre County Women's Resource Center. Along with executive director Anne Ard, the two joined together to fundraise, spread awareness and provide resources to those impacted by domestic violence. As a result, Coquese's Drive, an annual golf tournament was formed, totaling more than $170,000 in its nine years of existence, all to benefit the resource center. 





"When I think about diversity at Penn State and Penn State athletics in particular, I really think that diversity, inclusion, connection, community is really a part of the fabric of what Penn State is all about."
- Coquese Washington


Just one of the many roles Washington and the Lady Lions play in the community, Washington's impact also stretchers further, as she continues to foster diversity among teams, coaches and administrative staff at Penn State.

"When I think about diversity at Penn State and Penn State athletics in particular, I really think that diversity, inclusion, connection, community is really a part of the fabric of what Penn State is all about," Washington said. "It's one of the things that drew me here." 

Looking back, one of most diverse experiences she has had at Penn State goes back to simply being welcomed as the fifth head coach in Penn State women's history. For Washington, she knew that coming to an institution like Penn State, she was going to be different in a variety of ways, from what the Nittany Lion community might be used to. 

As Washington recounts, following in the footsteps of African American women who have already become head coaches was certainly inspiring, but the warm embrace she felt from the community really stood out.

"It doesn't matter what your color is, it doesn't matter what your religion is, it doesn't matter what your sexual orientation is, if you're about making Penn State a welcoming place and you can add to the excellence that is Penn State, then you're going to be embraced," Washington said. "For me, that was such an empowering notion to grasp and to understand. At this place, not a lot of people look like me. I'm the first woman around here with dreadlocks, but it doesn't matter because I am Penn State, we are Penn State." 

Washington's passion for blending coaching leadership with community impact and experience goes back much further than when she arrived at Penn State.

Rather, Washington's humility and commitment to community service stems from her parents, who were both factory workers in Flint, Michigan for General Motors and both members of the union. Washington's father was a union representative and her mother was an active member. From early experiences, she grew up with the knowledge of what it means to have a voice, how to use it and how to be a leader in an impactful way. 
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Alongside her role as Lady Lion basketball head coach, she serves as president of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). In just one piece of a vast set of responsibilities, she uses her knowledge of what it takes to be an impactful leader to help coaches from across the country at all different levels face problems they may have with diversity.

"We have LGBT issues, and transgender issues are becoming more and more common place, and how do you navigate transgender issues on the playing field," Washington said. "There are a number of diversity issues that we have to deal with and just this year we put in place our diversity and inclusion working group within the WBCA to deal with these issues and to provide suggestions and information to our executive committee so we can handle these issues in the appropriate way." 

As president of the WBCA, the experience has been enjoyable for Washington, especially accompanied by her former head coach Muffet McGraw. In her 30th season at the helm of the Notre Dame women's basketball program, McGraw serves on the executive board, and Washington, working with her long-time mentor and friend is amazing. 

"She has such a wide perspective," Washington said. "She has been coaching and has seen a lot of things over the years of her coaching career so to have her perspective is invaluable to me in my role as president. To have her ear and for her to have my ear to say, 'Coquese maybe we should look at things this way,' I'm really privileged to be able to have this experience with her." 

As Washington continues to lead the Lady Lions both on and off the court, she continues to represent Penn State as a role model and pioneer for African American women. Among accomplishments and tremendous impact, her message to those is a mixture of both connection and community. 

Her belief, as Aristotle also thought, is that the sum is greater than the whole of its parts, which has resonated with her for many years. It is now that Washington is instilling this same mindset in the lives of young African American women. 

"If I had any message to women of color, to women to students, to anybody at Penn State it is, find a way to be a blessing to somebody," Washington said.  "If we can do that, then we can make Penn State stronger and stronger everyday."

By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Lady Lions closed out the regular season with a big win in front of a big crowd when they defeated No. 24/25 Michigan 76-75 in the annual Pink Zone game on Sunday. 

It was an emotional game, with over 500 breast cancer survivors in attendance, all donning pink to show their support. For pregame, each starter was escorted out by a survivor, and senior Sierra Moore was even escorted out by her mom.

Sophomore Ashanti Thomas was playing in her second Pink Zone game, and credits the positive vibes the team was getting from the 8,213 fans in attendance in helping them claw back for the win.

"I loved the crowd and it was a really high energy game," said Thomas. "It was really positive and helped us keep our heads up when things got tough throughout the game. I just thought it was amazing, and the purpose of the game for the survivors, it was just great. There was a lot of support today." 

Added head coach Coquese Washington: "Our crowd was fantastic today. Our kids played great off their energy. You could feel that positivity coming from the stands down into the huddle," Washington said. "You could feel the confidence that the crowd and the arena had in our team. There wasn't a moment were we were thinking of anything other than playing our best, giving our best efforts, staying focused, staying locked in and executing."

Redshirt freshman Amari Carter added that the game was the perfect way to end the regular season for the Lady Lions, who head to Indianapolis this week for the Big Ten Tournament. 

"This was a great game, and not just for us and what that means for the end of the season but also, for all the survivors who were in the stands and all the family members that came and the cause that we played for," Carter said. "It was just a great way to end the season." 

Thomas was a perfect 5-for-5 from the field and tied her career high with 11 points. She gave Penn State's it largest lead of the game, 50-40, in the third quarter with a layup at the tail end of a 7-0 run.

"I just felt really confident, and when my teammates trust in me, it just puts me on another level," Thomas said. "The confidence and the trust that they had and they were willing to pass me the ball even when we were down some, so I just had to stay focused and stay locked in." 

Penn State now looks to carry this momentum into the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 7 seed. The Lady Lions will face off No. 10 seed Minnesota at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 2 inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

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By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Lady Lions will play in the annual Pink Zone game this Sunday against Michigan and honor breast cancer survivors for the eleventh straight year.

The Pink Zone game has become a staple of Penn State's season, and being a part of it means a lot to players and coaches alike. Team captains Peyton Whitted and Sarah McMurtry have both been personally affected by breast cancer, so playing in the game has added meaning.

"I've been affected by breast cancer so just being able to play a game to remember people like my grandmother and also the other survivors and people that are affected by it as well are really big," Whitted said.

Added McMurtry: "My mom survived breast cancer and just to have one of the biggest Pink Zone games in women's basketball means so much. Raising awareness, raising money, playing for something bigger than ourselves means a ton for me personally."

Playing in her fourth and final Pink Zone game, Whitted has seen the game grow and change over the years. But the one thing that stays the same is the excitement leading up to and during the game.

"For me, it's been big every year but I think it just means so much more as each year goes by and there's more people that come, I feel like I've seen new faces each year," Whitted said. "Then just on top of that, you get different feels each time it comes around and it makes it just more exciting to play in the game." 

Head coach Coquese Washington has also seen the game grow in her time at Penn State, and loves that her team gets to be a part of it year after year.

"It's been really cool to see how much it's grown over the years and how it's grown from an event to truly a cause," Washington said. "The game [is] just a fantastic memory for so many people, and you see what's going to happen on Sunday and 600-plus survivors on the floor, that's going to be so cool and just to know that we're a part of it, it's a lot of fun." 

The activities don't conclude at the final buzzer, with a reception happening in the team's practice gym following the game. There, survivors get to join the players for food and conversation, and the players pink jerseys are auctioned off.

"That's one of the highlights of the season, the live auction of the jerseys and then going in and having a reception with the survivors, it's amazing the stories that we hear in that room, it's really empowering," Washington said.

As game time inches closer, Washington says she doesn't have a special message for her players for this particular game. Instead, with the rich tradition of the Pink Zone game in the Lady Lion program, she lets the stories of survivors dictate the significance. 

"One of the things about breast cancer it just seems like everybody has a personal connection, whether it's a family member or close friend, it seems that everybody has a story about how breast cancer has impacted their lives or their family," Washington said. "So rallying as a group and as a program behind this cause is just something that's a part of our program and it's in the fabric of what we do." 

The Pink Zone game will take place on Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center. It'll be the last game for the Lady Lions in the BJC this season before they head to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Tournament.

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By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Leaders come in all shapes and sizes. Some lead in between the lines, pushing their teammates to the limit during practice and through their play on the court. Others give advice and guide their fellow student athletes through their demeanor in the classroom. For the Penn State women's basketball team, it has someone unique in senior captain Kaliyah Mitchell, whose leadership bleeds through the entire fabric of the Blue and White her team wears.

 

Grounded by her Georgia roots, Mitchell's character, described as full of light-heartedness and competitiveness, has left a mark on those around her as well as the women's basketball program.

 

"With Kaliyah Mitchell she brings leadership," assistant coach Tamika Jeter said. "She brings toughness and a competitive edge that nobody else can give us. She brings something that's intangible to this team, and I talk about her leadership quite a bit because she's the one behind the scenes, she sees things before they happen, and has really been a big part in driving Coquese's vision on this team and developing our culture into a positive culture."

 

Mitchell knows that as a senior and a captain she plays an important role on this team. As one of the squad's leader, others look to her to show them the way and for her to lead by example.

 

I know I can't let up on my teammates and I know I have to push myself really hard in order for everybody else to go harder," Mitchell said. "It's hard to be a leader if you're not doing what you're supposed to do, so I try to make sure I'm out there competing, working hard with whatever we're doing."

 

That type of direction she provides she understands goes beyond basketball as well, and she knows that she needs to constantly be grinding if she wants her teammates to do the same.

 

"Regardless of if we're at community service or we're at the gym, going over a drill or something, I try to make sure I'm the hardest person working," Mitchell said.

 

She has done exactly that over her four years rocking the Blue and White. On the hardwood, the forward has been one of the team's most versatile players.

 

As a three-year starter, Mitchell has regularly been amongst the team's best in rebounding and defense, tallying 54 blocks, 142 steals and 662 total rebounds over her career. Her numbers have improved each season, with a significant jump during her senior season as the team leader in all three of those statistical categories.

 

The forward has also been a staple from the free-throw line, always proving to be reliable from the line. Mitchell has etched her name into the Penn State record books as she is ranked 19th all-time in Penn State history from the charity stripe, knocking her free throws down over 77 percent of the time.

 

A large amount of that production this year has come off the bench, which is something you usually don't expect from a senior captain. The difference between starting on the floor or coming off the bench does not phase Mitchell, however, as she feels that she can make an impact regardless of when she makes it onto the floor.

 

"When you're starting, you know you have to start out strong, you kind of set the tone, but when you come off the bench, I feel like you have an advantage," she said. "You're able to see what the other team's doing, you also see what we're doing and see what could be working, what's something that you can go into the game and help the team out with."

 

Even with all that production, assistant coach Tamika Jeter says it all comes back to her intangibles when it comes down to where her presence is felt the most.

 

"I think she does so much on the court, and the fans get to see her take charges and block shots and defend and rebound and score, but she does a lot for her teammates to show that she cares, so that's what I appreciate the most about Kaliyah."

 

At the end of the day, Mitchell knows what she means to the team and what she needs to do to help the team grow into something bigger than the game itself. As the team sits in the wheelhouse of post-season contention, she feels confident her team can ride their momentum from the second-half of conference play and the team can potentially achieve things to make her senior season one to remember. 

VIDEO: Women's Basketball's THON 2017 Pep Rally Dance

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Another highly anticipated THON event, check out women's basketball's full pep rally dance! 

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By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Since arriving on Penn State's campus four years ago, senior Peyton Whitted has been on a team that has seen it's share of ups and downs. From Big Ten champions her freshman year to a rebuilding process, Whitted has seen it all.

Now with just two games left in her regular season career with the Lady Lions, the Suwanee, Georgia native is trying to keep her emotions in check heading into this final stretch.

"My emotions are kind of all over the place but I'm just excited about these next two games because we're on a four-game win streak and we've been playing really good basketball," Whitted said. "So my focus right now is just finishing strong and the team finishing strong. Focusing on those things helps to take away from those other emotions so I try just to focus on what this team is doing and how good we're playing."

The Lady Lions will finish this season with a winning record after two straight years finishing below .500. Prior to that, the Lady Lions won three straight conference titles, the final one being in Whitted's freshman year.

"I definitely learned a lot being on a great team and then being on a team that struggled and then also bringing us back to the success that we had my freshman year," Whitted said. "I've learned a lot about adversity and success, and it's just a great life lesson because not everything is going to go perfect in your life so it's just about how you respond. I'm very appreciative for everything that's happened and I don't regret any of it because I've learned a lot from it."

And learn from it she has. In her four years, Whitted has put in a lot of hard work and dedicated herself to the program, and this season she was rewarded for that when coach Coquese Washington called her name as one of three team captains.

"Peyton is a kid that lives in the gym," Washington said. "She's usually the first one in the gym before practice and she's always staying after, working on her free throws, working on her shot, working on different things and that work ethic certainly stands out with her teammates."

Teammate and fellow senior Sierra Moore echoed that sentiment, adding that Whitted is able to communicate with her teammates and help the team off the bench.

"This year she is a team captain and she worked really hard to get to that point. You could tell that she's really matured and she knows how to talk to people," Moore said. "And just her aggressiveness off the bench, she's done a tremendous job."

Added sophomore guard Teniya Page: "She gives us experience off the bench. She's been in different types of positions throughout her career here, so on the court she gives us composure. She doesn't panic and she knows what to expect because she brings that experience off the bench."

On top of seeing changes within the team, Whitted has seen a lot of change in her game as well. But Washington said that the biggest change she's noticed is in how Whitted carries herself on and off the court.

"She's playing with probably the most confidence that I've seen this latter half of conference play," Washington said. "When she's out on the court, she's playing with a lot of confidence, so that growth in her confidence in herself and the confidence in her teammates has been really big."

With graduation nearing, Whitted still has some bucket list items to complete before she heads home from Happy Valley. Her big items are climbing Mount Nittany once the season is over and trying to get to a sporting event for all 31 Penn State programs. And, with the team being on a bye week this weekend, Whitted is excited to finally experience THON for the first time.

"We're performing at the pep rally and this is our first year doing it since I've been here, so I'm definitely excited for that," Whitted said. "And I'm just looking forward to participating in Athlete Hour and going and spending a lot of time there this weekend."

Once the season is over, Whitted won't be ready to hang up her basketball shoes just yet. She hopes to continue playing professionally, no matter where in the world that may be. When her basketball career does conclude, she'll be ready to put her broadcast journalism degree to good use.

" still want to play, so I'm looking to play overseas or honestly anywhere where I can play, so that's my first thing," Whitted said. "After that, I definitely want to pursue something with my major, so producing sports stories or doing sports commentary or something in that field."

Whitted and the rest of the Lady Lions will have some time at home before they travel to East Lansing next week to take on Michigan State on Wednesday. Tip is set for 7 p.m.

@GOPSUSPORTS

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