The Lady Lions have adopted their own version of the “Big Three.”
But it is not Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce or Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James.
Instead Penn State has its own trifecta of Maggie Lucas, Alex Bentley and Dara Taylor.
For the first time this season Penn State has been experimenting with three guards in the starting lineup to add speed to the offense.
On Sunday No. 11 Penn State will face South Dakota State and will look to keep the same speed and explosiveness in the fast half as it did last week against Georgetown.
South Dakota State will be no easy test it took down possible Big Ten favorite then-No. 18 Nebraska. Although the Lions are in a trial run with the three guards, coach Coquese Washington said that she thinks the team is getting better every game.
“I am happy with the way it is progressing, but I think they can play better,” Washington said. “But I like the feel of [playing with three guards.]… The combination of Maggie, Alex and Dara gives us that extra burst, so I really like that combination out there, especially to start the games.”
With the addition of Taylor came the loss of Zhaque Gray to graduation. Even though the Lions have three shooting guards on the floor nearly all game, the teams three-point production leaves something to be desired without Gray.
Against Georgetown Lucas shot 13 of the teams 14 three-pointers and she has 34 threes on the season. Alex Bentley is the next closest with five, and the team as a whole has 47. Despite the low three-point production Washington said the team is a more midrange team this season without Gray.
“Shot selection is all about taking shots that you can make. We shot more threes last year because we had people who were good three-point shooters,” Washington said. “I don’t care what shots we take as long as we take good shot and make them.”
The Lions have two traditional point guards and although there was speculation at the beginning of the season as to who would be bringing the ball up, but for now Bentley is the dominant playmaker.
“I think it is both [controlling the point.] We have always been a team where a number of people will bring the ball up the floor depending on who we outlet to, so that won’t change,” Washington said. “But Alex Bentley is our point guard. We have two ballhandlers, but it is [Alex’s] team and she is going to run it.”
The “Big Three” is getting help from other fellow guard Ariel Edwards who averages nearly nine points per game off the bench and scored 10 points against No. 2 Connecticut. Having the threat of variation off the bench has caused problems for the opposing teams and allowing the Lady Lions to average 75 points per game.
“They are just really quick, you know they are fast up and down the floor, especially on the dribble. It makes the posts have to keep up with them,” Mia Nickson said. “I think it causes problems for defensive teams, a lot of them have a big three and with Dara in the lineup they are going to have to refocus their plan of attack.”