Youd think a womens basketball team thats scoring 73 points per game wouldnt be having too many problems on offense.
But for much of the season, offense has been the one inconsistent piece for No. 8 Penn State, which faces Michigan State at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Heading into this past week, the Lady Lions were shooting below 40 percent from the floor in Big Ten play. Decent shooting in wins over Purdue and Indiana have brought the numbers up to 41 percent.
I like where we are offensively, Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. We played better offensively against Purdue than we had in a few games. Going into that game, I thought we had been a little inconsistent. But, I like the way that were moving the ball. I like the way that were sharing the ball.
Washington said when the inconsistencies creep up it like in a 63-61 loss at Wisconsin usually the faults are mental instead of physical.
When were individually feeling confident and making great decisions, the offense a lot better and a lot more fluid, she said. If theres any hesitation or indecision on the part of anybody, its not quite as good.
That indecision leads to turnovers, slows how fast the ball rotates, whether players get the ball in the right position and whether the Lady Lions have to rush to fire up a shot before the 30-second shot clock goes off.
Penn State (19-3 overall, 9-1 Big Ten) wants to play fast all of the time and when the game slows down, often the scoring and shooting percentages do as well.
We still have things to work on, said guard Maggie Lucas, who shot 49 percent in non-conference play and is shooting 39 percent in the Big Ten. We have to keep our pace up in the halfcourt. Thats our biggest challenge.
Lucas said shes not surprised to see the shooting percentages drop once conference play starts.
Everyone is giving you their best defensive effort, said Lucas, who is averaging 19.8 points per game. I think the Big Ten Conference overall is a pretty strong conference. ... Teams know each other and know each others systems well. Theyre ready to defend.
To combat that familiarity, Washington says that her club is constantly adding to things offensively and defensively throughout the season.
Were still putting in new things and new wrinkles, she said. I wouldnt say totally new concepts, but its more wrinkles to our basic sets on both ends of the floor.
Its not really new, added forward Mia Nickson. Its just add on to what we already have, different options that we didnt think about.
Washington says little changes can yield big dividends, especially with the postseason looming.
As you go through the season and people get familiar with what youre doing ... you want to have a some wrinkles to give you a little bit of an edge --- and opportunity to steal a possession here or there, she said. When you get down to the second half or the season and the Big Ten Tournament, sometimes its a possession here or there that could make a difference between and a loss. If you have a few wrinkles in your back pocket to get that extra possession, thats a good thing to have.
Washington will see how the adjustments work against the Spartans (18-4, 6-3), who the Lady Lions buried 76-55 more than a month ago. Suzy Merchants club leads the Big Ten in defense with opponents averaging 49.7 points per game.
Its absolutely tougher the second time, Washington said. Teams are making adjustments. We know that Michigan State is going to be coming in armed and ready. Im sure they felt like they didnt play to their standards when we played at their place. Theyre a very good defensive team and were going to have our hands full.
The Spartans have no superstar, but are getting baskets from many sources. Klarissa Bells 11.8 average leads six Michigan State players who are averaging nine points or more per game.
Washington hopes her team can shoot a good percentage this afternoon, but shes more concerned with the bottom line.
I would love it if we were shooting a better percentage, but at the same time you can look at stats until your eyes get crossed, Washington said. Im looking at the big stat, we find ways to win when we shoot poorly, when we rebound poorly, when we lose people and give up points. The biggest thing is the overall body of work over 40 minutes.
The first 2,000 fans Sunday will receive an Alex Bentley wind-up walker. Its the fourth in a series to honor Penn States seniors.
I dont think it looks a thing like me, but its cool, said Bentley, whose likeness is holding a basketball under the right arm. A lot of my family back home, they want me to bring some home.
Bentley said she loves the concept.
Its neat to have something that fans can take home to remember you buy, she said. I think our marketing team did a great job. It was a great idea.
The Lady Lions and several other Penn State athletic teams will hold an All-Sports Clinic before todays game as part of the National Girls and Women in Sports Day celebration. The clinic is open to boys and girls ages 12 and younger and will take place from 12:45-1:45 p.m. in the South Gym at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Representatives from the womens lacrosse, womens soccer, womens ice hockey, track & field, womens volleyball and softball teams will participate in the clinic. All clinic participants are required to have a ticket for the game. Clinic participants are required to sign a waiver in order to participate.
Notes: Penn State leads the all-time series 25-13. ... The Spartans had won seven of eight over Penn State until the Lady Lions win earlier this season. ... Under Merchant, Michigan State is 15-20 against ranked teams. ... The Spartans are 30-8 in February and 30-17 in conference road games under Merchant.
Follow Walt Moody on Twitter @wmoodycdt