When the Lady Lions wrapped up their 95-62 victory over Illinois on Wednesday night, it would seem that the team was completely satisfied with its game. And for the most part, it was.
Yet, according to coach Coquese Washington, there is still room for improvement.
“I thought we played well in spurts,” Washington said. “I thought there were some stretches of the game where we were pretty sloppy and didn’t do a good job of controlling the ball.”
However, the only notable problem the team had Wednesday night was turnovers. The Lions had 29 turnovers, which tied for their season-high from when they turned the ball over 29 times against Miami in November. The Illini had only 20.
Junior guard Maggie Lucas noticed the physical play of the Illini and felt that her opponents started off strongly. But she said she was satisfied with the way the Lions responded and eventually came out on top.
“Illinois’s style of play is to get you to make turnovers and take some quick shots,” Lucas said. “After the game got going, I thought we settled in a little bit, made the extra pass and then transition was clicking early for us.”
Even when Penn State would turn the ball over, the defense did a good job keeping Illinois from scoring. The Lions out-blocked the Illini, 10-1. The young players, freshman Candice Agee and sophomore Tori Waldner, blocked three and four shots, respectively.
The Illini are typically a solid defensive team, averaging just 67.2 points per game by their opponents, but the Lady Lions focused on their own game and conquering Illinois. The Lady Lions forced Illinois’s top player, Karisma Penn, to take three personal fouls in the beginning of the first half and eventually to foul out of the game. By doing so, Penn State was able to slow down their opponent and get to their game.
“[Illinois is] probably one of the toughest teams in the Big Ten physically, but they have always been like that so it was just something we had to adjust to,” senior Mia Nickson said.
With only three games left of the regular season, the Lions have a little more than a week to fine tune their skills for the postseason.
Players like Lucas and Alex Bentley are expected to give more 20-point games, as they did Wednesday, as well as keep on the pressure for their opponents. However, the team as a whole has proven to show its depth. The bench tallied 25 points alone on Wednesday. Illinois scored only three points from the bench.
Washington said she feels that her team is still growing and there are ways of improving the team that is close to winning the Big Ten title.
“There were times in the game where we could have played with a little bit more composure,” Washington said. “Some of that was that we had some of our younger players out there and all those inexperienced players out there. And to put them out there against that kind of defensive intensity, some of that [lack of composure] was to be expected.”