At the surface level, the Lady Lion wins against Indiana and Northwestern aren’t terribly impressive.
Northwestern is just 4-4 in conference play, and the Hoosiers are ahead of Penn State by the virtue of having one fewer loss in one fewer game with a Big Ten record of 2-6.
The Wildcats do have a pair of top-25 victories against then-No. 18 DePaul and No.
20 Michigan State, but neither remain in the polls.
However, it’s not the teams that Penn State has defeated, it’s the manner in which it has found ways to win.
The Lions have dropped numerous games from winning positions this season. Penn State broke that trend in its past two, firmly securing victories in the closing stages.
“Earlier in the season, we weren’t able to close these games out,” coach Coquese Washington said. “We didn’t have the necessary confidence; the necessary chemistry and cohesiveness.”
The chemistry is not only present in the results, but also in the statistics.
Prior to Thursday’s game against Indiana, Penn State averaged just 62.2 points per game. In their past two outings, the Lions have outpaced that mark and posted 79 and 76 points.
Those boosted figures are the result of a unit that has developed an understanding that’s translated into production from multiple sources. In fact, the Lions had five double-digit scorers in each of its past two wins.
“When you have the ability to score points, you’ve got a chance,” Washington said.
— Coquese Washington
Washington also believes her team’s improved rebounding has been imperative in its past two matchups. Against the Hoosiers and Wildcats, the Lions beat their season average of 13.2 offensive boards per game with 23 and 14, respectively.
Those rebounds mean little without taking advantage of them, and Penn State has been assertive in claiming that advantage, recording at least 13 second-chance points through those rebounds.
Washington thinks her team has embraced a more attacking mentality.
“They’re a lot more motivated now,” Washington said. “They understand the impact that one possession has on the game.”
A lot of that tenacious mentality derives from the Penn State bench. With the lineup changes, redshirt freshman Lindsey Spann and sophomore Peyton Whitted are both coming off the bench providing energy. And the emergence of sophomore Alex Harris cannot be forgotten after posting a season-high 11 points and 10 rebounds in her first career double-double.
“I thought we got some pretty good production out of our bench,” Washington said. “Peyton came in the game and she was a spark. She was aggressive.”
Moving forward, Washington is pleased with her team’s most recent performances, and hopes they can be replicated as the end of the Big Ten season nears.
She also notes that to further capitalize on the Lions’ scoring, they need to step it up defensively. Penn State hasn’t played poorly on the defensive end, but its inclination to pick up fouls has limited its effectiveness.
If the Lions can maintain this newfound moxie and play more intelligent defense, there’s no reason they can’t challenge teams in the top-half of the conference.
This article was written by Patrick Kowalski from Pennsylvania State University / Daily Collegian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.