UNIVERSITY PARK — They say “an elephant never forgets” and apparently that goes for a Lady Lion, too.
Following Saturday’s 95-39 exhibition basketball romp over California, Pa., Penn State junior guard Maggie Lucas brought up how she and her teammates didn’t want to have a repeat of the poor defense they played in the previous season’s 101-81 exhibition win over Bloomsburg.
For a team coming off a Big Ten regular-season title and Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA Tournament, statistics from a meaningless preseason exhibition game may seem pretty insignificant, but not to the nation’s No. 8 team.
“I think the impression my freshman and the first part of my sophomore year was you might be able to score, but we’re going to outscore you,” Lucas said. “But now, we take it personal.”
Even Penn State coach Coquese Washington was surprised just how serious her team took an exhibition game from a year ago.
“I had willingly forgotten that stat, but they reminded me of it,” Washington said at her weekly news conference on Wednesday. “... I didn’t even know what to do with that information. I was like, ‘Wow, you guys remember that.’ That’s how competitive they are. They’re a really competitive bunch. I guess they’re finding any nugget of motivation that they can find. That’s pretty cool.”
The Lady Lions forced Division II Cal, a historically solid PSAC program like Bloomsburg, into 18 percent shooting for the game and into committing 27 turnovers. They led by as many as 59 points during the contest.
That was a far cry from a year ago.
“I think if any team wants to be successful, they have to remember games like that,” forward Ariel Edwards said. “It’s not always the last game you play up until that point. It’s what you do up to that point.
“You have to put in your mind that you can’t let things like that continue. If we had come out this year and let that team score 81 points, it would have been like, ‘What would people expect from us this year?”
“It speaks to how far we’ve come along and how much work we’ve done since last season and how much more experienced we are,” point guard Alex Bentley said of Sunday’s effort. “It was nice.”
Washington, whose squad opens its season at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Bryce Jordan Center, says is definitely better defensively. The Lady Lions allowed 62.5 points per game last season
“They’ve learned that every game matters and every game counts,” she said. “They understand that we have to build great habits if we want to be a still ranked in the Top 10. ... We have to play to our level of excellence every night.”
Edwards will join returning starters Nikki Greene, Mia Nickson, Bentley and Lucas in the starting lineup on Sunday. Edwards averaged 7.0 points and 4.3 rebounds per game as a sophomore last season.
Washington said that freshman Candice Agee will make her season debut on Sunday. Agee missed Saturday’s exhibition game against Cal with a dislocated finger on her left hand.
“She’s fine,” Washington said of the 6-foot-6 center. “She’s been practicing.”
The news is not so good for co-captain Marisa Wolfe. The senior forward is still suffering concussion symptoms which date all of the way back to last season.
“Based on the tests and all of that kind of stuff, she’s a ways from playing,” Washington said.
Lucas has started a blog for ESPNW. Her first entry, dated Oct. 30, is on the sports network’s Web site now and details her love of the game and her recruiting process.
Follow Walt Moody on Twitter @wmoodycdt