Big Ten Preview: Lady Lions Hope To Continue Their Momentum
Penn State got off to its best start to a season since the 2012-13 season — getting through non-conference play with a 10-2 record. In fact, the Lady Lions have more wins outside the Big Ten this season than in the last two seasons combined.
With Big Ten play ahead of it, Penn State prepares for a new set of challenges in one of the best conferences in college basketball. The Lady Lions host Indiana on Wednesday night at home (7 p.m. on BTN Plus) to get the slate started.
The best thing for the Lady Lions might be getting a chance to start the Big Ten season at home. The Bryce Jordan Center has been a fortress for the team — going 7-0 on its home floor during non-conference play — and Coach Coquese Washington would like to see that continue.
“You definitely want your home court to be a big advantage,” Washington said. “We’ve played well at home so far. Our crowd has been into the game and they provide a lot of energy. So hopefully that can continue into conference play.”
The Lady Lions have been much more successful on the court this season than in recent years, and part of that has to do with the quality of the team’s transition game.
On the fastbreak, Penn State has given its opponents trouble. Pitt Coach Suzie McConnell-Serio praised the Lady Lions’ transition game as one of the best in the country. In general, the team is just playing a faster brand of basketball.
Washington doesn’t see much changing on that front, but does believe it’s a different mindset heading into Big Ten play compared to the non-conference slate.
“We prepare the same way for every opponent,” Washington said. “The adjustment is just the mental understanding and recognition that were playing teams that have a lot at stake and teams that are going to give us their best effort.”
Other than its quality, the challenge that the Big Ten presents is the different styles in play throughout the conference. With high-scoring offenses like Ohio State, stingy defenses like Michigan, and dominant low post teams like Maryland, each game gives Penn State a different look.
The non-conference schedule was set up to do much of the same for the Lady Lions, which is why Washington believes her team is well prepared for the upcoming slate.
“The one thing in the non-conference that I think has helped us is that in the non-conference we play a variety of different teams,” Washington said. “Our conference is one where there is not one ‘style.’ You’ve got different coaches that do different things.”
An advantage for the Lady Lions is that they have a pretty experienced team. With three seniors on the roster and the team’s leading scorer Teniya Page getting ready for her second taste of Big Ten play, there is plenty of experience to go around.
But some freshmen are receiving significant minutes for the team and it’s been stressed that conference play is a different animal than the non-conference stretch, so it could be a different look for these first year players.
“It’s more physical,” freshman guard Amari Carter said. “It’s faster. There’s a lot more athletes on other teams in the conference, so we’ve got to be prepared to come out every night for a physical and tough game.”
Whatever the Big Ten season may bring for the Lady Lions, the team has made huge strides to be in this position midway through the season. Penn State is back receiving votes in national rankings and was listed as an 11-seed in ESPN’s latest NCAA Tournament bracketology.
If their success transcends into conference play, the Lady Lions will surely be on the official bracket in March.