UNIVERSITY PARK — The points came in bunches for the Penn State women’s basketball team in its season-opening rout against St. Francis on Friday.
It fact, a couple of scoring records were broken.
But the 117-77 rout of the Red Flash was no consolation to Penn State coach Coquese Washington, whose team had some negative numbers such as 27 turnovers and 25 fouls.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Washington. “We’re certainly a work in progress so we’ve got to continue to find our rhythm and chemistry out there. It’s a lot of new faces and a lot of familiar faces in different roles. Each one of the players is still trying to figure out how to be effective on the floor in game situations.”
Maggie Lucas scored a game-high 33 points and set a school mark by going 16-for-16 from the foul line. Ariel Edwards added 23 points, on 9 of 11 shooting, as the Lady Lions set a Bryce Jordan Center scoring mark and finished just a point shy of the program record for points in a game.
The Red Flash were within 63-50 five minutes into the second half before Penn State exploded for a 32-8 run the turned the contest into a laugher.
The large run coincided with Washington scrapping her traditional starting lineup and matching up four guards with the smaller Red Flash. With forward Ariel Edwards breaking the Saint Francis trap, which led to several Penn State turnovers, the Lady Lion offense got in gear.
“They were playing five guards and it was really putting our posts at a disadvantage,” Washington explained. “It wasn’t a situation where they were going to have a lot of success. We decided we’d match up with them and play four guards and it helped with breaking the press. Ariel was doing fantastic at it. It allowed us to match up with them and defend them a little bit better.”
The versatile Edwards didn’t mind taking the lead against the press and knows it could be a recurring role.
“I think it’s a possibility that may happen seeing that a lot of teams probably will try and press us with the new 10-second backcourt rule,” she said. “If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I don’t mind it.”
Freshman Keke Sevillian provided the defensive spark in the run. She finished with four of the the Lady Lions 19 steals. Several of Sevillian’s steals led to easy baskets as Penn State made 21 of 37 field goal attempts (57 percent) in the half.
“Keke Sevillian came into the game and was really a big spark plug,” Washington said. “She really helped turn the game around with her pressure and allowing us to get in transition, creating turnovers.”
Sevillian and several of her classmates that made their collegiate debuts found their footing in the final 20 minutes. Kaliyah Mitchell scored nine of her 11 points and Alex Harris grabbed all of her game-high 10 rebounds after the halftime break.
“I feel like as time passed by we just got a feel for it,” Mitchell said.
“The freshmen really did a great job of coming in and playing in spurts,” Washington said. “That’s what it’s going take. I think it’s going to take them a number of games are going to settle into their roles.”
St. Francis wanted to play fast and did, which was a tempo well to Penn State’s liking. The Red Flash fired up 42 3-pointers, making just 10. That helped Penn State rack up a huge 57-33 edge on the boards and score 24 fastbreak points.
“We played hard until the end and we didn’t give up,” Red Flash coach Joe Haigh. “Our goal coming in here was to learn and get better. ... Obviously, there’s only so much you can do with the size and speed.”
Lucas’ record-setting night led to a big night at the foul line. Penn State made a whopping 37 of 43 free throws. Dara Taylor added 14 points and a game-high six assists.
The Lady Lions have just one day of practice before facing Fordham (1-0) at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
“I thought there was a lot of positive takeaways,” Lucas said of Friday’s game. “Everyone that came into the game contrbuted. Our freshmen played great. They settled in once the game got going. We also learned a lot from the game and that’s what we’re going to be working on in practice, getting ready for the next game.”
Alexa Hayward, who made 6 of 12 3-point attempts, led the Red Flash with 20 points. Former Bishop Guilfoyle standout Alli Williams added 14 points, but was just 3 of 16 from the floor.
Notes: Former Penn State captains Alex Bentley and Marisa Wolfe were on hand as Penn State raised the banner for its Big Ten regular-season title in 2013. ...Penn State freshman Infiniti Alston did not dress for the game. Washington said Alston would be available Sunday. ... Former State College player Taylor Allison saw action for the Red Flash. Allison was 0-for-2 from the floor in two minutes of action.