Penn State will face a familiar Wisconsin team in the Big Ten Tournament’s opening game.
The No. 12 seed Lady Lions take on the No. 13 seed Badgers on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. in Indianapolis and can be viewed on the Big Ten Network.
The two sides have met twice already during conference play in the regular season, and Penn State came away with the win in both matchups.
“I think both the games were competitive,” Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. “Wisconsin played well and they challenged us in different ways.”
The first game was played in Happy Valley where the margin of victory was just seven points when the fourth quarter came to a close. Teniya Page led the way for the Lady Lions with 23 points and three assists while Marsha Howard was a force inside and on the boards for the Badgers, putting up 20 points along with 15 rebounds in the loss.
Neither team shot the three ball particularly well in the first matchup. Wisconsin shot just 3-15 from deep while Penn State only shot 5-20.
Three point shooting is an area where both of these teams have struggled during the season, and oftentimes the results of their games have depended on the efficiency of outside shooting.
The second matchup, played in Madison, was another tight contest. Penn State came away with a six point win, beating Wisconsin 65-59 in a game that saw Page and Jaida Travascio-Green dominate for the Lady Lions.
Page scored 16 points in the win, but Travascio-Green was the difference maker off the bench with 14 points of her own on 4-7 three point shooting.
“I wouldn’t say that there’s any extra confidence at all, we know that they’re gonna give us their best effort, they’ve improved since we played them last time,” Washington said. “Having played them twice I think there is a familiarity that our team has with them that I think is helpful.”
What to watch for: Penn State
The Lady Lions have had a difficult year, especially in conference games and away from home.
With a conference record of just 5-13, and having lost eight of its last 10 games, Penn State is not what one would call on form.
Teniya Page returned from injury in the last game of the regular season after missing multiple games down the stretch. Page scored 22 points on an efficient 7-13 shooting in the loss at Nebraska.
“I think she’s pretty close [to 100%],” Washington said. “She’s been rehabbing and we finally got her in practice a day before we played Nebraska so she’s still recovering from that.”
The Lady Lions have also been without regular starter and leading rebounder Alisia Smith for some time now due to a foot injury.
“She’s still rehabbing her foot injury and so it’s doubtful that she’ll be ready to go for the Big Ten Tournament.” Washington said.
Without Alisia Smith, freshman forward Lauren Ebo, who has been coming off the bench a majority of the season, will move into a starting role as she has in recent games.
Penn State has been most successful this season in games where they’ve shot the three ball efficiently and moved the ball consistently on the offensive end.
Kamaria McDaniel and Jaida Travascio-Green have been playing well as of late and will be crucial parts alongside Teniya Page if the Lady Lions want to have any chance of making a run in the tournament.
“You have to have the right approach, in terms of a ‘one game at a time’ mentality,” Washington said. “If we can lock in and take advantage of opportunities that come our way I think we’ll be okay.”
What to watch for: Wisconsin
The Badgers finished just below Penn State in the Big Ten standings with a record of 4-14.
One of Wisconsin’s four wins was against Nebraska, the most recent team to beat the Lady Lions.
Marsha Howard and Imani Lewis are the two players to watch for the Badgers, as they’re the only two who average over 10 points per game. Both are forwards who do most of their operating in the paint as compared to the perimeter, and neither are a threat from beyond the arc, shooting a combined 7-24 from three on the season.
Wisconsin as a whole isn’t much of a threat when it comes to shooting from the outside. The team average from the three point line was just 28.2% for the season while opponents shot at a rate of 30.6%.
With Alisia Smith out of the lineup for Penn State, the inside battle in this one will be very important for the Badgers to take advantage of.
“For the second year in a row we’re playing somebody for the third time, we’re really excited about the opportunity to play Penn State and we’re preparing to have the best opportunity and have our best outing amongst the three as we kick-off the tournament on Wednesday.” Wisconsin coach Jonathan Tsipis said.
The winner of this matchup will play the No. 5 seed Ohio State on Thursday.
Penn State lost twice to Ohio State in the regular season, with one of those games ending in overtime while the Badgers also dropped two games to the Buckeyes earlier this year.