CHICAGO — Defending regular-season champion Penn State was tabbed as the favorite to capture the Big Ten women’s basketball crown and the Lady Lions Alex Bentley and Maggie Lucas earned preseason honors at Big Ten Media Day on Thursday.
The Lady Lions, who finished 26-7 last season and 13-3 in league play, were selected to defend their crown by both the league coaches and media. Penn State returns four of five starters and nine lettermen from last season’s squad, which advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.
Nebraska was selected second on both ballots. The league coaches liked Purdue to finish third, while the media selected Ohio State for that spot.
Bentley, the Lady Lions’ senior point guard, was the preseason Co-Player of the Year along with Ohio State’s Tayler Hill by the coaches. Hill, a senior guard, was the media’s preseason Player of the Year.
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Bentley, a first-team all-Big Ten pick last season, averaged 14.1 points, 4.7 assists and 3.0 steals per game. She also was selected to the preseason first team by both the coaches and media Thursday.
She is joined on both the coaches and media first team by Lucas, a junior shooting guard. Lucas averaged 19.5 points and led the Big Ten in free-throw percentage (89 percent) last season.
The coaches selected seven players to its first team. Joining Lucas, Bentley and Hill are Nebraska junior forward Jordan Hooper, Iowa senior center Morgan Johnson, Minnesota sophomore guard Rachel Banham and Purdue junior guard Courtney Moses.
Joining Bentley, Lucas, Hill and Hooper on the media team was Nebraska senior guard Lindsey Moore.
Penn State faces California, Pa., in a preseason game on Nov. 3 and opens its regular season Nov. 11 with a 2 p.m. clash against Howard at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Lady Lions open conference play at home Jan. 3 against Northwestern.