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Nov. 8, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When the national coaches and members of the media put a single-digit number in front of your name during the preseason there are going to be high expectations, but the Lady Lions and head coach Coquese Washington don't expect any letup from the preseason accolades.
"Our team is a focused team," Washington said during her Wednesday press conference. "(Our players) have learned that every game matters and every game counts. They understand that we have to build great habits if we want to be a top-ten ranked team. We have to build great habits and that means we have to play to our level of excellence every night."
Take a close look at the Lady Lions season opener versus Howard with some tidbits on both teams, courtesy of GoPSUsports.com.
No Place Like Home
The Lady Lions have won 13 of their 16 home openers since playing their first full season in the Bryce Jordan Center in 1996-97. Penn State is riding a string of six straight home opening wins, with their last loss coming at the hands of No. 1 Duke on Nov. 18, 2005, and will play their tenth season opening game at home since beginning the 1996-97 slate with a victory over Maryland at the BJC.
The Lady Lions have defeated 13 different opponents from eight separate conferences for their victories. Penn State defeated one team from the ACC (Maryland), the Big West (NJIT), Colonia Athletic Conference (Rider) and Patriot League (Bucknell), claimed two wins against teams from the Atlantic Ten (Temple & Duquesne), the Pac 12 (Arizona & Washington State) and the SEC (LSU & South Carolina), while grabbing three wins versus the Big East (Seton Hall, Villanova & Syracuse).
Penn State's only losses in home openers have come versus the nationally-ranked Blue Devils, twice, and to in-state rival Villanova. Duke handed the Blue and White a 93-67 defeat in 2005 and dealt them an 88-87 loss as the No. 3 team in the country during the 2000-01 campaign. The 2001-02 campaign started with a loss to Villanova when the Wildcats won, 74-58, in the BJC.
Head coach Coquese Washington owns an unblemished 5-0 mark in home openers, with wins over Arizona (2007), South Carolina (2008), NJIT (2009), Rider (2010) and Washington State (2011). The sixth year sideline boss will play her fourth season opener in the BJC on Sunday versus Howard and look to continue her good fortunes in front of the Happy Valley faithful.
Not "Greene" Anymore
The term green is typically used to describe someone that is young or inexperienced, but when Coquese Washington uses the term - with a different spelling, of course - she knows that a veteran will be answering the call.
Nikki Greene ventured nearly 1,400 miles from Diboll, Texas to Happy Valley and no one knew how the high school All-American would adjust to the college game or being away from home. It didn't take long, however, for the six-foot-four Greene to work her way into a full-time role on the floor, while also balancing life in the classroom with the same intensity in which she blocks shots.
Greene started her first career game versus Drexel on Nov. 13, 2009 and it took her a mere 13 seconds to record her first rebound and just 52 seconds to record her first collegiate block. She ended the first half with a block, three points and four rebounds. Fast forward three years and Greene is looking to join an exclusive club when she makes her 100th career start. If you're keeping score at home, that means the once green Greene has started every game since arriving on campus as a wide-eyed rookie.
She has led the team in rebounding and blocked shots each of the last two seasons and currently ranks No. 5 on the career blocked shots list and is No. 12 on the career rebound charts. Nik, as she is called by teammates, enters this season with 839 points (8.5 ppg), 723 rebounds (7.3 rpg) and 176 blocked shots (1.8 bpg), not bad for someone as "Greene" as Nikki.
Scheduling Made Easy
Sometimes it's as simple as calling a team and asking them to play; at least that is how the matchup with Howard came about. Head coach Coquese Washington joked with members of the media earlier in the week that, `we just called and asked them if they wanted to play' and after a trip to the WNIT for Howard last season the game lines up as a good test for the Lady Lions.
"(Hampton) is a tough, quality opponent to open the season with," said Washington. "As a program we want to play quality teams in our region and this is an easy game for both teams to coordinate."
Bison Looking for Stampede in 2012-13
Howard wept the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference preseason awards, taking the top spot in the preseason coaches poll and watching as Saadia Doyle - the 2011 MEAC Player of the Year - was selected to repeat that honor as the preseason choice for the award.
The Bison will open their season on Friday when they play St. Francis (Pa.) at 7 p.m. in Loretta Pa. before playing their first of three Big Ten opponents in the Lady Lions on Sunday at 2 p.m. Howard will also play at Northwestern and at Ohio State this season.
The Bison enter the season ranked No. 12 in FullCourt.com Mid-Major poll after narrowly missing the NCAA Tournament last season. Howard finished the 2011-12 season with a RPI of 56, was a tip-in away from upsetting Hampton in the MEAC Championship Game and fell to Virginia in overtime, 59-56, in the first round of the WNIT.
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Greg Campbell on Twitter @SID_Greg