Penn State women’s basketball: Lady Lions to host Notre Dame in Big Ten/ACC Challenge

wmoody@centredaily.comMay 16, 2013 

Penn State women’s basketball coach Coquese Washington will get her first opportunity to face her alma mater and mentor as the Lady Lions face Notre Dame in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Dec. 4 at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Washington played for (1989-1993) and was an assistant coach under (1999-2007) the Fighting Irish’s Muffet McGraw. Washington left in 2007 to take over at Penn State.

The contest, in which times and television coverage will be announced later, gives Penn State a non-conference slate that will feature two of last season’s NCAA Final Four teams at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Lady Lions were already scheduled to host Connecticut, which won the national championship. The Huskies defeated Notre Dame 83-65 in the semifinals. Penn State’s full schedule, with the date of the Connecticut game, will be released later.

Penn State is 5-0 all-time against the Irish, including 2-0 at home. The Lady Lions defeated Notre Dame 75-49 in their last meeting on November 16, 2006 at the Jordan Center. In 2004, Penn State knocked off Notre Dame 55-49 in the Sweet 16.

Notre Dame, a member of the Big East since the 1996 season, begins its first campaign in the ACC. The Fighting Irish won the past two Big East titles. They were national champions under McGraw in 2001 and runners-up in 2011 and 2012.

The Fighting Irish (35-2) finished second in the final Associated Press Top 25 last season and the Lady Lions (26-6) were eighth.

“We’re looking forward to being part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and helping to successfully represent the ACC in our first year in the conference,” McGraw said in a university release. “Coquese has done an outstanding job in making Penn State a consistent top-20 program and they will have a tremendous core group of players coming back next year ... It’s going to be a test for us early on the season, and it’s a matchup that should be exciting for women’s basketball fans all around the country.”

Penn State is 2-4 in Big Ten/ACC Challenge games. The Lady Lions fell 69-65 at Miami last season.

Washington lost three senior starters from last season’s club, which won its second consecutive Big Ten title and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before being upset 71-66 at LSU.

Leading the Lady Lion returnees is Big Ten Player of the Year Maggie Lucas, who was third in the league with a 20.1 scoring average and fourth in the country with a 46.2 percent accuracy from three-point range. Also among the returnees are Dara Taylor, an All-Big Ten defensive team selection, and Ariel Edwards, who averaged 7.6 points off the bench.

Penn State brings in a huge recruiting class of seven freshman, the largest class ever under Washington.

Notre Dame returns four starters, led by former Villa Maria Academy standout Kayla McBride, who was the Irish’s second-leading scorer with a 15.9 average. Starters Natalie Achonwa (13.9), Jewell Loyd (10.9) and Ariel Braker (4.2) also return.

McGraw is 626-217 in 25 seasons at Notre Dame and 714-258 overall.

The Penn State-Notre Dame matchup is the highlight game of the opening day of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The other matchups are: Illinois at Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech at Indiana and Michigan State at Florida State.

On December 5, the matchups are: N.C. State at Northwestern, Ohio State at Maryland, Boston College at Wisconsin, Michigan at Virginia, Syracuse at Iowa, Nebraska at North Carolina, Purdue at Duke and Miami at Minnesota.

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