There’s a difference between thinking about doing something and just doing it.
And it’s that fraction of a second it takes that determines success or failure.
That hesitation is what Penn State women’s basketball coach Coquese Washington has seen from her No. 14 Lady Lions (2-1) heading into Wednesday’s clash against Bucknell (1-2) at 7 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center.
With three new starters and six freshmen that she’s trying to work into the lineup, Washington says her club is still looking for continuity. Facing top-ranked Connecticut on Sunday proved just how much continuity was lacking. The Lady Lions shot just 30 percent in a 71-52 loss, especially struggling in halfcourt sets against the Huskies’ pressure man-to-man defense.
“It’s inexperience,” Washington said. “When you go back and watch the film, it’s one person on this possession, one person that possession and two people on this possession. It’s just finding that chemistry, rhythm, timing and things of that nature. We’ve just got to keep working at it. Certainly when you play against a team who is as strong defensively as UConn is, it can disrupt your timing a little bit.”
Thinking too much is another disruption. The Lady Lions sometimes are worried more about where they are supposed to be instead of just playing.
“We’ve got a lot of really smart kids on the team and sometimes they overthink things,” Washington said. “ We you have got three or four of them on the floor at the same time and they’re all overthinking and not reacting and playing, then it can throw things off just a little bit.”
“That’s our offense,” guard Maggie Lucas said. “A lot of it is reactions and reads.”
Penn State reserve center Talia East said she remembers how overwhelming the new concepts can be for a new player.
Call it information overload.
“The freshmen are learning so much — not only the plays, but what you need to be doing at each position and assignment and grasping why we’re doing X, Y and Z in the offense to get this shot,” East said. “They are having a lot thrown at them. “
Washington is trying to be patient — up to a point. She wants to see what she’s seeing in practice happening on the floor after tipoff.
“I’m seeing improvement, but I want to see it faster,” she said. “We’ve got to keep working at it in practice and have it carry over into gameday and not let nerves and things of that nature prevent us from executing the way we want to and need to.
“There are a lot of areas where we’re just a tick off,” she added. “It’s not a glaring mistake or theme. We’re just a hair off and not quite as we want to be. In some ways that’s a positive because with us being as young as we are I was concerned that we would be farther away than we are right now. … We just need more games and more experience to tighten that up.”
Lucas, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, said Sunday’s loss against the defending NCAA champions was definitely a wakeup call. The UConn defense forced 20 Lady Lion turnovers and the Huskies won easily without injured first-team All-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and forward Morgan Tuck.
Lucas, who is averaging 24.7 points per game, said learning from Connecticut’s example is important.
“It takes a tremendous amount of focus and attention to detail,” she said. “That’s what we have to focus on more. When you play a team like that, they are focused every play, every time down the court. You’ve got to bring that same amount of focus or it’s going to be a rough night.”
Washington said that contest provided a good example of the kind of postseason atmosphere that freshmen will see for the first time.
“This was an NCAA Tournament type game — the caliber of play, the crowd, the TV, all of that kind of stuff,” she said. “That’s what it’s going to be like in the NCAA Tournament and Big Ten Tournament. We’ve got to get ready to do that in March.
“That’s what we talked about — what we can learn from this? We’re going to have this experience again and how are we going to respond?”
Her club gets back in action against a team that has never beaten Penn State in 12 previous tries.
The Bison are coming off a 97-49 thumping from Virginia Tech on Sunday. Forward Audrey Dotson leads Bucknell in both scoring (20.3 points per game) and rebounding (8.3).