Laughs and smiles were constantly present on the faces of the No. 6 Lady Lions coaches and players, after defeating Fairleigh Dickinson, 101-44.
Maybe because almost everything went Penn State’s way.
Five out of the Lions’ nine players who played scored 10 or more points. Three had career highs in points: junior forward Talia East (11 points), sophomore forward Tori Waldner (seven points)and freshman center Candice Agee (eight points).
Yet, the conversation after the game centralized around the shake up in the starting lineup that led to the coming-out performance of redshirt junior transfer from Maryland, Dara Taylor.
Until now, the starting lineup of Penn State has remained an untouchable. However, with an injured redshirt senior forward Mia Nickson, who tweaked a muscle against Miami (Fla.), the lineup had to change up.
East filled in for Nickson, but the more surprising move came with head coach Coquese Washington starting Taylor over junior forward Ariel Edwards.
“I want us to play faster,” Washington said. “Dara is certainly the fastest and speediest player on our team. I just don't think we are playing fast enough.”
Washington said she hopes it will create easier baskets with the presence of the speed of Taylor and senior guard Alex Bentley.
Taylor gave Washington confidence in continuing with that starting lineup in the future. Taylor tallied 15 points with five assists and turning the ball over only two times in 30 minutes of action.
“I was pleased with her turnover numbers,” Washington said. “She’s making good decisions with the ball, and she gets some easy baskets if you run the floor.”
After the game, Taylor preached the importance of taking care of the ball. She said it allows the offense to execute more and take more shots.
Taylor did not back down from shooting, making six of 11 shots she took from the floor.
If Taylor can continue that success in shooting, it will prove lethal for the Lions.
“That [Taylor’s shooting] really hurts the weak side defense if she is going to make shots on one wing, then you have [senior guard Maggie Lucas] on the other side,” Farleigh Dickinson head coach Peter Cinella said.
Cinella said three guards on the court changes the course of the game, making things a little bit harder.
That will please Washington as she wishes Taylor to be a versatile weapon.
“She has to continue shooting because when she is a dual threat out there, in terms of scoring and passing the ball, she is going to be really impactful player for us.”
Though Lucas said, in order to get more shots for Taylor and others, it came in transition. She stressed the importance of buckling down on defense.
While Washington did not say whether or not the starting lineup will include three guards against No. 2 Connecticut Thursday night. Yet, Taylor is not thinking too much it in.
“I'm out there for the tip. That's about the only difference,” Taylor said.