The Bryce Jordan Center has been a fortress this season for the Lady Lions, getting off to an impressive 11-1 start on their home floor.
The issue for coach Coquese Washington’s squad has come away from its home court. Penn State is just 2-5 on the road and hasn’t grabbed a win in another team’s arena since December 7 against Holy Cross.
The Lady Lions average just 64.1 points on the road compared to the 80. 7 points they average in front of their home fans. The team tends to lose control during stretches as its opponents’ fans help push the momentum for their team. It’s been two completely different Penn State teams that show up for games at home and on the road.
“I have told our players this,” Washington said. “We have to have our game travel, meaning we have to take the good things we do at the [Bryce Jordan Center] and bring those on the road. It’s about overcoming adversity, the crowd, and focusing on the things we can control, and showing some resilience will help us.”
Big Ten play has been especially rough on the Lady Lions outside of the BJC. Starting off with a lose at the RAC to 6-16 Rutgers where Penn State scored a season-low 45 points, the Lady Lions haven’t won a single conference clash away from home in their four attempts.
“Road wins are tough to come by in the Big Ten because every team in the conference plays well at home,” Washington said. “There are a lot of tough venues in this conference, so for us it’s about playing hard, executing our game plan, and making every possession count. We have to be focused and locked in, and keep that mindset for 40 minutes.”
It doesn’t get any easier for the Lady Lions on the road in the next two games. Tonight they face No. 14 Ohio State in Columbus, then travel to Evanston to play another Big Ten powerhouse, 16-5 Northwestern.
These two opponents feature the Big Ten’s most dangerous players: Kelsey Mitchell of Ohio State and Nia Coffey of Northwestern. Mitchell currently leads the conference in points per game with 22.8, while Coffey has turned the perennially-average Wildcats into Big Ten contenders.
It’s all about playing to the team strengths for redshirt senior guard Sierra Moore, who has made the last several starts for Penn State after beginning the season on the bench. She’s also coming off a season-high 19 points against Illinois on Sunday,
“I think we just have to keep coming into practice every day and keep getting better on the little things like rebounding,” Moore said. “Keep working on our transition offense and our transition defense, and just going and playing our game.”
With an NCAA Tournament spot still in reach for the Lady Lions, there is a bigger picture to these next two games and the rest of the road slate. But for Washington and her team, it’s about focusing on the next game ahead and playing their game.
“We will get into the practice gym tomorrow and we will talk about the game plan that we have for Ohio State, but it is all about going there and executing the game plan,” Washington said. “You cannot focus on two road games or seven more regular season games, you have to focus on one game plan and executing one game plan at a time which is exactly what we are going to do.”
Wednesday’s clash against Ohio State begins at 7 p.m. and Sunday’s against Northwestern tips off at 3 p.m. Both games can be seen live on BTN Plus.