Cal Poly coach Faith Mimnaugh thought she was watching a professional wrestling match.
When one Penn State post player got into foul trouble or needed a rest, Coquese Washington sent in another just as big and just as strong to bang on the Mustangs’ 6-foot-5 center Molly Schlemer.
“It was like a tag team,” said Mimnaugh, whose team fell 85-55 against the Lady Lions on Sunday in the opening round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. “It was a constant barrage of trying to body Molly as much as they could. It was effective. We’ve got one Molly and she logged a lot of minutes. It seemed like a little unfair fight to be honest. It felt like five against one because they just got their tag team going.”
Washington wasn’t worried whether it was a fair fight or not. With Nikki Greene in some foul trouble, junior Talia East saw yeoman’s work against the Mustangs. The 6-foot-3 junior had 12 rebounds and helped slow Schlemer, who had 12 points in the game’s first 10 1/2 minutes.
Schlemer finished with 24 (four coming late) but struggled to get touches on offense.
“I thought Talia was huge for us,” said Washington of the junior center, who saw 22 minutes off the bench. “She had a fantastic game. I thought she did a really good job defending Schlemer. Schlemer got her points, but the thing we wanted to do was make her work and make her work really hard to get touches and quality shots.”
Schlemer certainly had to work, facing 6-foot-4 Greene, East and 6-foot-5 Tori Waldner in stretches during the game. The Big West Conference player of the year isn’t used to that many players looking her in the eye.
“It’s completely different from our conference because I’m the biggest in the conference by a longshot,” Schlemer said. “It was a good experience to play against people my size. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Three of their players were my size and that never happens.”
Throw in 6-foot-2 Mia Nickson (13 points, 13 rebounds) and it made for a long night for the Mustangs.
“Their post game, they had some BIG MAMAS,” Mimnaugh exclaimed. “The Big Mamas were throwing us around like rag dolls.”
Nickson had nothing but praise for Schlemer, who was 11 of 19 from the floor and had 11 of her teams 19 total field goals.
‘She’s a great player,” Nickson said. “She has a great touch around the basket, even better than what film shows. It was difficult to guard against her. When she didn’t have the ball on a possession, I thought that hurt their offense.”
Penn State reserve Gizelle Studevent wore a large brace on her left knee during the contest.
The senior played more than her season average, logging 13 minutes and going 2 for 4 from the floor for four points.
Theresa Plaisance and Shanece McKinney had 16 points each as LSU held off Wisconsin Green Bay 75-71 in Sunday’s nightcap. Plaisance had 10 points and McKinney did not score in LSU’s 90-80 loss to Penn State in the second round last season.
By the numbers
Penn State improved to 15-3 in first-round games. Penn State is 10-8 in the second round and 30-23 all-time in NCAA games. Penn State’s 52 rebounds were two off the school NCAA mark set against Fordham in 1994. Penn State leads the overall series 4-2 against LSU. Penn State has scored at least 85 points in all three NCAA Tournament games it has played at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Official attendance was 2,991 for the LSU-Wisconsin Green Bay game.