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Oct. 30, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA. - The Penn State Lady Lions are ranked eighth in the USA Today Sports/ESPN Coaches' Preseason Poll, which was released today. The ranking is the highest preseason ranking in the poll for Penn State since starting eighth during the 2003-04 season. Last year, the Lady Lions started the season at No. 14 and ended the year ninth.
Penn State is the highest of the four Big Ten teams ranked in the preseason Top 25, joining Purdue (18), Nebraska (19) and Ohio State (21). Penn State will face six teams in the preseason Top 25. In addition to playing the Boilermakers, Cornhuskers and Buckeyes, the Lady Lions will also face Connecticut (2), Texas A&M (12) and Miami (23).
Penn State continued its rise by collecting its first Big Ten regular-season championship and NCAA Sweet Sixteen bid since the 2003-04 campaign with a 26-7 overall record and a 13-3 mark in conference play. The Lady Lions were ranked throughout the season in the Associated Press poll and for all but one week in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll. Penn State finished 11th in the AP poll and ninth in the coaches' poll, the highest rankings for the program since the 2003-04 season. The expectations will be high entering 2012-13 as the Lady Lions return nine letterwinners and four starters from that Big Ten Championship team.
Leading the way for the Lady Lions is the All-American and Wade Watch List backcourt tandem of senior Alex Bentley (Indianapolis, Ind.) and junior Maggie Lucas (Narberth, Pa.). Bentley garnered first team All-Big Ten honors for the second-straight season and also took home honorable mention WBCA All-America accolades. She was second in the Big Ten and in the Top 20 nationally in steals, averaging 3.0 per game. The Big Ten All-Defensive team choice led Big Ten action with 49 steals in 16 games, becoming the first Lady Lion to lead the league in steals since Jess Strom did it in back-to-back years in 2003-04 and 2004-05. Additionally, Bentley was 11th in the conference in scoring (14.1), fourth in assists (4.7) and seventh in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4). Lucas earned first team All-Big Ten and honorable mention Associated Press All-America honors after finishing third in the conference in scoring at a 19.5 per game clip and was just the fourth different Lady Lion to score more than 600 points in a season with 642 tallies on the year. Lucas was also Top 10 in the league in free throw percentage (.886 - 3rd), three-point field goal percentage (.410 - 3rd) and three-pointers made (2.5 - 2nd). The Narberth, Pa. native is just the third sophomore in school history to reach 1,000 points.
The Lady Lions also return starters Nikki Greene (Diboll, Texas) and Mia Nickson (Ashburn, Va.). Greene garnered All-Big Ten third team accolades after accounting for 9.8 points and a team-best 7.8 rebounds. Greene ranked in the Top 10 in the Big Ten in rebounding (4th), field goal percentage (7th- .472) and blocked shots (5th - 1.4). Her 176 career blocks are fifth in school history. Nickson fought through a series of injuries to claim All-Big Ten honorable mention honors as she averaged 8.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Additionally, she was named to the NCAA Tournament Kingston All-Region team after tallying 19 points, five rebounds and two steal against eventual National Semifinalist Connecticut. In Big Ten play, Nickson was eighth in rebounding (7.5) and 10th in field goal percentage (.455).
The Lady Lions open their 2012 season with an exhibition game against former Penn State standout Jess Strom and the California (Pa.) Vulcans on Sat., Nov. 3. Penn State's regular-season opener is slated on Sun., Nov. 11 against Howard at the Bryce Jordan Center, where the Lady Lions will raise their 2012 Big Ten Championship banner.
Single game tickets for the Lady Lions go on sale Monday, Oct. 29. Tickets are $15 and $12 for adults and seniors and $9 and $7 for youth (12 and younger). Lady Lion Basketball season tickets are still available by calling 1-800-NITTANY. Season tickets are $99 for adults and $50 for youth (12 and under), this includes a Nittany Lion Kids Club Membership for 2012-13. The PNC Flex Books are available again this year for $99. The Flex Book gives fans 12 vouchers, 10 that can be redeemed in any combination for Nittany Lion and Lady Lion Basketball tickets throughout the year and two extra vouchers for the Nittany Lions' Coaches Vs. Cancer game and the Lady Lions' Pink Zone game.
The 2013 Pink Zone at Penn State will take place on Sunday, Feb. 24 as the Lady Lions take on Michigan in the Bryce Jordan Center. Last year, the Lady Lions donated a record $203,000 to breast cancer causes. This year's fundraising efforts will benefit the Mount Nittany Medical Center, Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital and Lewistown Hospital. For more information on the Pink Zone at Penn State, visit the official Pink Zone website at www.pennsylvaniapinkzone.org.
The Lady Lions are on Twitter. Follow sports information contact Kris Petersen (@ladylionsid) and the Lady Lions and coaches (@pennstatewbb) to get the inside scoop. The Lady Lions are also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pennstateladylions.