A New Season Rises
Penn State’s Coquese Washington era featured a sunset mistaken for a sunrise. After three seasons spent emerging from Rene Portland’s dark netherworld, four glorious seasons danced in the sunlight. There were four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, including two sweet sixteens, and three consecutive Big Ten titles. Midway through this impressive revival, Washington, a Flint Michigan native, flirted with taking the Michigan head coaching before deciding to remain in Happy Valley.
The demise probably didn’t start with the flirtation; but it followed in a couple of years. Washington’s final brilliant season was 2013-14 with the Lady Lions finishing 13-3. They finished first in the B1G and lost a Sweet Sixteen match-up to the Stanford Cardinal. Thence, came the flameout. In 2014-15 Penn State dropped to 3-15 in the B1G. The following four years conference records were 6-12, 9-7 (with an WNIT trip), 6-10 and finally, the denouement, 5-13.
Out went Coquese Washington, who landed an assistant coaching gig at Oklahoma to help Sherri Coale recover from last season’s 4-14 Big 12 debacle. In came Roseville native and Marquette alum, Carolyn Kieger, whose five years at Marquette had elevated the Golden Eagles to the NCAA tournament in each of the last three seasons.
Not surprisingly, Kieger inherited what looks like a Coquese Washington team-sometimes decent slashing guards and oft time disappointing post play. The post problems can be summed up in a comment by the PSU announcers in their last non-conference outing versus Sacred Heart. In referencing some Kieger comments about starting post, Lauren Ebo, the BTN+ color guy said, Kieger was trying to get Ebo to, “put the four in the stretch four”. Getting the post players to play the post has been a problem.
Turnovers are another issue for the Lady Lions. They’ve committed 210 turnovers-19.1 per game. Minnesota by comparison has committed 135, 12.3 per game. On the other hand, getting to the foul line is not a problem for Penn State. They get there a lot. They are 182-254 (.717) from the line while the Gophers are 154-199 (.774). From the behind the arc, Minnesota 93-236 (.394) holds the advantage. PSU is 57-186 (.306).
The Lady Lion’s breakout offensive game was from junior guard Kamaria McDaniel who dropped 40 points against Pittsburgh in Penn State’s 78-73 win. Only two other Lady Lions have scored 40 or more: Kelly Mazzante (48), against Minnesota in December 2001, and Jen Bednarek (42). PSU is still about the guards. Senior Siyah Frazier has hit double figures in her last three games (11, 12 and 17) plus she’s a solid rebounder (8, 5 and 8). Freshman Makenna Marisa can also put up double figures.
Last season’s match-up at Williams was a Gopher romp from the start. Minnesota outscored PSU 28-17 in the first quarter and 31-11 in the second quarter on the way to a 97-67 win. Destiny Pitts led Minnesota with 22 points and distributed 6 assists. Jasmine Brunson and Kenisha Bell both scored 17 points. Taiye Bello had 14 points and 13 rebounds in 28 minutes. For the Lady Lions: Siyah Frazier had 10 points, Lauren Ebo 8, Kamaria McDaniel 10 and Jaida Travascio-Green 11. Unfortunately, Travascio-Green was lost for this season with an ACL injury (her second to the same knee) in the pre-season. She is now on the bench as a student coach.
Minnesota are winners of four straight and seven of the past eight from the Lady Lions. The Gophers last loss to Penn State (6-5) occurred in Happy Valley in February of 2017, 66-77. Think of the Gophers (10-1) opening the B1G season in State College as a belated Christmas gift. It’s obviously a favorable match-up for Minnesota. Although, now that we’ve moved past the Winter Solstice, Penn State thinking the sun will be rising a little higher and shinning a little stronger on the Lady Lions.
Wins: @ Towson 73-67, Fordham 72-59, Clemson 68-55, (N) North Carolina Central 92-68, Pittsburgh 78-73, Sacred Heart 88-65.
Losses: Rider 70-78, LaSalle 62-69, George Mason 68-78, (N) Long Beach State 56-64 and @ Princeton 59-72.