BLOG: Team Defense Propels Lady Lions To Victory
Jan. 28, 2014
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - At this point in the season, Penn State head coach Coquese Washington has made it clear that the focal point for each and every subsequent game involves team defense.
After yet another dominating defensive performance yesterday in an 83-53 rout of Big Ten opponent Minnesota (13-8, 2-5), No. 13/13 Penn State (15-4, 6-1) has proven capable of consistently applying their coach's "bear down on defense" mindset in game situations.
"We really stressed team defense," said Washington. "I thought our defensive intensity and our ball screen defense was really good in the first half."
Through the first 35 minutes of play, Penn State allowed just three Golden Gophers to score. Eventually five Minnesota players managed to appear in the scoring column, with their three top players tallying 49 of their 53 total points.
"They've always had fast guards and been aggressive," said Minnesota head coach Pam Borton about Penn State's defense. "I just think that they're bigger. They are just big and they protect the rim, and they don't give you a lot of easy shots inside and negate a lot of penetration to the basket."
Coming into the game, the Lady Lions knew that they were facing an excellent shooting team. Prior to yesterday's contest, the Golden Gophers were ranked second in the nation with a .430 three-point field goal percentage.
However, the Lady Lions and their perimeter zone defense was too much for the Minnesota shooters. Penn State held the Golden Gophers to just 2-of-10 from beyond the arc, 0-of-5 in the first half.
"I thought Ariel [Edwards] and Dara [Taylor] did a great job on [Rachel] Banham," said senior guard Maggie Lucas. "I thought we contested a lot, contested every shot. We know how good of a three point shooting team they are, and we know they're going to make some. So our goal was to go in there and contest."
Washington echoed Lucas's evaluation of their perimeter defense.
"Our focus coming into this game was that we needed to guard them," said Washington. "They are a great three-point shooting team and you can't give great shooters easy open looks, so our focus was just to be there when they caught the ball and not give them great looks. I thought we did a great job forcing them off of the three-point line and not giving them open looks."
Not only did the Blue and White keep Minnesota in check from downtown, but they also won the battle in the paint and in transition.
The Lady Lions out-rebounded the Golden Gophers, 42-31, thanks to six boards from 6-foot-6 sophomore Candice Agee.
Moreover, Penn State came out in front in the turnover battle, forcing 21 and committing just eight. Senior guard Dara Taylor notched four steals to help the Lady Lions outscore Minnesota 25-7 in transition.
The Lady Lions have been so strong defensively that the team has not allowed more than 55 points in their past four contests. This is the first time since the 1999-00 season that a Big Ten team has held its opponents to under 55 points in four straight games.
Next up for the Lady Lions is a tough Big Ten road test against No. 22/20 Purdue (14-5, 4-3) Thursday at 6 p.m.
In the last meeting, the Boilermakers stormed through Happy Valley to knock off the Lady Lions at home, 84-74. Moving forward, the stress point for Washington and her squad will remains on suffocating defense.
"Certainly the focus has to be on the defensive end of the floor," said Washington. "Purdue came in here a couple of weeks ago and scored 84 points, the most points we have given up in conference play. We haven't started to talk about the specific game plan yet, but whatever it is, I know it is going to be a heavy concentration in guarding them and trying to keep them from scoring 90 points."