PSU looking to gain advantage
UNIVERSITY PARK – Penn State’s size matches-up against Florida’s speed.
Tuesday night’s NCAA tournament second-round game at the Bryce Jordan Center will feature a contrast in styles of play.
And as Lady Lions coach Coquese Washington sees it, the team that capitalizes on its advantage will be the one moving on to the Sweet 16.
“Certainly we hope our size can be an advantage for us and give us extra opportunities on the offensive end,” said Washington at a news conference Monday. “But they’ve got some advantages too. It’s going to be a challenge for us to defend them. There will be a lot of challenges for us to withstand in this game.”
Penn State (23-7), the third seed in the Stanford Regional, will tip off against No. 11 Florida (20-12) at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. The winner will play Stanford or Florida State in a regional semifinal game on Sunday in Stanford, Calif.
For the Lady Lions, a second trip to the Sweet 16 in three seasons will mean using their height to thwart a quick Florida team that likes to score around the basket.
The Gators, who are looking for their trip to the Sweet 16 since 1998, upset sixth-seeded Dayton 83-69 in the first round thanks in large part to a sizeable advantage in scoring in the paint (46-32) and offensive rebounds (15-5).
“They definitely like to penetrate a lot,” Maggie Lucas said. “They penetrate and dish, penetrate and score. So, it’s going important for us to contain the ball. Defensive focus, that’s the key going into it.”
In particular, Penn State will focus its attention on a pair of guards who enjoyed outstanding games against Dayton.
Sophomore Cassie Peoples had a team-high 21 points and six assists, while senior Jaterra Bonds contributed 15 points and two assists.
“We’ve got to do a good job of trying to contain their guards,” Washington said. “They’re small and quick. They’re good ball handlers. They’re crafty and very good dribblers. They do a good job of getting into the paint and creating shots. They crash the offensive glass well. Keeping the ball off the paint is going to be important for us.”
The Penn State defense, which struggled in dropping two of three games heading into the NCAA tournament, rebounded during the second half of Sunday’s first-round win over Wichita State.
The Lady Lions’ 62-56 victory over the Shockers was highlighted by a 17-0 run to start the second half. In all, Wichita State missed its first 10 shots and was held scoreless for 7 minutes, 42 seconds during this stretch.
Washington credited her team’s intensity and aggressiveness.
“We were a lot more active on the ball,” Washington said after the game. “When we play that way and play aggressively like that, our help rotation moves a lot quicker. When we play like that, we usually do a good job of contesting shots and making people take tough shots. It allowed us to get out and transition.”
Penn State and Florida have met only two times previously and Tuesday’s game will be their first match-up in over 13 years.
An obvious advantage for the Lady Lions will be the Bryce Jordan Center crowd.
“I love the fans we get to play in front of,” Lucas said. “We have awesome fans. For me, I feed off their energy. The rest of the team does too.”
But Washington isn’t putting too much emphasis on the home court, when wasn’t kind to the Lady Lions in 2011, when they dropped a second-round game in the closing seconds to DePaul.
“It was good for the first game,” Washington said. “The kids were in a comfort zone and got into a good rhythm being here. … Having a home-court advantage can certainly help. But you have to give them something to cheer about. If you’re stinking up the joint, playing at home doesn’t matter.”