Lady Lion Basketball: Back, and Dreaming Big
When last we saw them, Coquese Washington and the members of the Lady Lion basketball team were in tears. This was in March, when Penn State lost in heartbreaking fashion to DePaul in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The coach and her players have had half a year to try to forget the pain of blowing a huge second-half lead that night. Some of them have chosen to do the opposite.
“I think this team, Alex and Maggie in particular, won’t forget it,” Washington said Thursday during the Lady Lions’ preseason media day. “They won’t let it go. They hate to lose, and particularly hate to lose in the way that we did. So I don’t need to beat them over the head with it. It lives with them. It lived with them all summer.”
“Alex and Maggie” are junior point guard Alex Bentley and sophomore sharp-shooter Maggie Lucas. They are two of the biggest reasons the Lady Lions made that NCAA appearance—the program’s first in six years—and arguably the best players on a team that enters 2011-12 ranked in the top 20 nationally by Athlon and The Sporting News. What’s not arguable is that Bentley and Lucas suffered their lowest moments as college players in that season-ending loss last March.
Bentley, who enters her junior season as a candidate for the Wade and Wooden awards as the nation’s top player, was whistled for a foul in the closing seconds that allowed DePaul to make the game-winning free throws. And Lucas, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year last season, shot just 1 for 11 in the final game of her otherwise dazzling rookie campaign. Neither player will be defined by that loss, and while Bentley said there was no way she could watch tape of the game over the summer, she and Lucas both spoke of using that memory as motivation.
How far might it carry them? With just one player (forward Julia Trogele ’11) lost from a team that was seconds away from a Sweet 16 berth, this Penn State team could be the best since the 1999-00 squad that made it all the way to the Final Four. Hearing them talk, it’s clear these Lady Lions are aiming just that high.
Penn State opens the 2011-12 season on Friday, Nov. 11 against Washington State. Here’s more of what Washington and her star player had to say about the upcoming season.
Washington on Bentley: ”I think she has the abilty to be one of the best point guards in the country, and I’d love to see her play like that every night. I yell at her all the time. All the time, all the time, all the time, all the time. From the minute she walks into the gym and picks up the ball, I am riding her like a horse at the Kentucky Derby.”
Bentley on Washington: ”She yells at me more than anyone. She’s very frank, very blunt. But I take it, because I know she wants me to be a great point guard.”
Washington on 6-foot-5 freshman Tori Waldner: ”She has no idea what she’s doing, but she’s going to be very good.”
Bentley on finding motivation in the rafters of the BJC: ”Every day at practice, we start out stretching, and our heads are looking up at the banners. I’m always thinking, we gotta put some more up there.”