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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State women's basketball is back home from Las Vegas, and the Lady Lions are back to full strength as well for the first time this season.
Teniya Page, who had missed the first five games of the season, returned in last week's games, logging significant time in both contests.
Page, a preseason All-Big Ten performer, had been sidelined with an ankle injury, but her return made an immediate impact on the team.
"Being able to go out there for 20-plus minutes on back-to-back nights was a real plus," head coach Coquese Washington said. "She showed her scoring ability in her limited minutes and she's just a really talented player. We're happy to have her back."
Page scored a combined 19 points in the two games played, but understands there is still a lot of work to do to get back to the level she was once at. It's a challenge she embraces but she's glad to at least be back into game action.
"It was weird, sitting out five games and not really doing any game-like situations for a couple months. But its fun to be back out there with them," Page said. "It's going to be a work in progress for me and probably the rest of them playing with me and the way I play now."
Washington has seen Page's entire recovery progress, and is impressed with how the guard has handled the situation and how quickly she has bounced back. But, like Page, Washington still knows the time it will take to fully strengthen.
"I thought she did really well. When she finally came back to practice, we were starting games. Some of her practice times in terms of getting up and down the court was limited," Washington said. "It's obviously a work in progress. Teniya isn't quite up to the pace that we've seen her at before and it's going to take her some time to get back to her top speed on the court. Once she gets a few more games under her belt, then I'll be able to assess that."
Aside from Page's return, the Las Vegas trip was a positive for the Lady Lions in other ways too. It was the first extended road trip of the season, and it allowed the team to become more familiar with each other moving forward into the rest of the season.
"It was a great experience for us from a basketball standpoint," Washington said. "Playing different teams back-to-back simulates our postseason play. With this young team, that experience was absolutely critical."
It was also a key trip for sophomore guard Amari Carter as well, who had been thrust into a leading role in Page's absence. She perhaps benefitted more than anyone by Page's return and it showed in Las Vegas. Carter tallied a career-high 24 points in the Louisiana Tech game, Page's first one back.
"Amari is so talented, so athletic, so gifted. She makes the hard plays look really easy," Washington said. "I think her confidence level is at an all-time high and when she's playing with Teniya and with a high level of confidence, then we have a pretty good backcourt."
"For Amari, being able to stay healthy and get a full summer of getting better and working out, you can tell it shows in the way she plays," Page said.
The Lady Lions host Wake Forest Thursday as part of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, an event Washington loves because it allows the team to measure itself against some of the best competition from another top-tier conference.
"You learn how to play against different styles of basketball. In our conference, what's important is that our coaches have very different styles of play. We're not characterized by other conferences where everyone kind of plays the same. Being able to play against different styles is important. Our three freshmen saw time out there (in Las Vegas), and the more experience they get, the better," Washington said. "Wake Forest is going to give us another opportunity to gauge ourselves against top-level competition. Their guard play is very dynamic They push tempo and they rebound very well so our guard defense is going to be challenged to keep that three-headed monster under lock and key."
Thursday's tip against the Demon Deacons is set for 7 p.m. The Lady Lions will also host Manhattan this weekend on Sunday at 2 p.m.