It would be easy to fall in the shadows of scoring duo Maggie Lucas and Alex Bentley, but even coming off the bench for the No. 8 Lady Lions, Ariel Edwards has established herself as an offensive threat.
Edwards averages nearly nine points per game and leads the team in field goal percentage at .491 after starting the first six games and playing in all 15.
Since becoming the Lions’ first choice off the bench, Edwards’ point production has become more consistent. She averages 9.3 points off the bench as opposed to only 7.5 in her first six starts.
“The thing about being on the bench is that it gives you the opportunity to get any nervousness you might have out,” Edwards said. “You get to survey the game before you get in there and see where you can attack and see what you need to do so I think it's definitely beneficial to me and I've been able to capitalize off of that.”
Mia Nickson said the completeness in Edwards’ game this season rises as her confidence does. Although it was not her highest scoring game, Edwards most complete game seemed to come against Nebraska, where she went 6-for-8 from the floor for 15 points with two blocks and six boards.
“She was big [against Nebraska]. We know that teams are going to key on certainly Maggie and Alex. But, we like to think that we have a lot of weapons,” coach Coquese Washington said. “We talk to our team all the time about being ready for your time. I think Ariel came in and was really aggressive from the beginning of the game. She attacked the basket and attacked the paint.
“She had a very aggressive, assertive mentality and that's what we need.”
Washington said Edwards’ success stems from her aggressiveness, something she said has made her game more dynamic and is working in her favor.
“She is aggressive on offense, going to the basket, taking her shots and certainly a level of confidence when she is shooting the ball on offense,” Washington said. “Defensively she is just really getting after it, being aggressive, getting open and pressuring the ball. Her and Maggie have probably taken the most charges on the team this year.”
Between learning the new position of shooting guard — she played forward in high school — and floating in and out of the starting lineup for Penn State, Edwards has had to make many adjustments in her collegiate career.
In previous seasons, Edwards has played at both the post and on the wing, but this season her predominate role is a guard and she admits she is still learning.
“I think I'm getting there. I mean, there are some things that I still struggle with,” Edwards said. “But I try to work on my weaknesses, my ball handling, my shooting... anything that a guard would do.”
Her teammates have embraced her transition to the wing. Edwards said her instincts as a forward make it easier to get the posts more involved.
“She honestly is the best of both worlds, being inside and out,” Nickson added. “I think it has only advanced her game with passing to the post, drive off penetration and it just makes her more versatile.”