Everyone in the Big Ten knows that Penn State’s Maggie Lucas can shoot.
The reigning conference Player of the Year already has put 2,142 points on the scoreboard during her college basketball career.
For the No. 4 Lady Lions (11-3 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) to remain successful, they have to get points from other people.
Heading into Sunday’s 3 p.m. nationally televised game (ESPN) against No. 21 Purdue, Lucas is leading the conference in scoring (21.7 ppg), but the Lady Lions are getting points from several sources.
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Five Lady Lions scored in double figures during an 87-71 win over No. 22 Iowa to open conference play. Four had nine points or more in an 82-76 triumph against Illinois on Thursday.
“If we can sustain that kind of balance, I will be ecstatic,” Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. “That’s what we will be working towards is getting that kind of production and getting even more production from our bench. I think we have a couple of players on a bench who can step in and be productive for us.”
Teams are going to make Penn State look to get production elsewhere.
Boilermaker coach Sharon Versyp admitted that when asked about defending Lucas at a news conference Friday. “You just have to chase her around, let other people beat you, make other people take the shots,” Versyp said.
The key for Penn State has been spreading the ball around and that responsibility falls on Dara Taylor. The senior point guard is looking to get the ball to Ariel Edwards (14.0), the Penn State posts (Talia East, Tori Waldner, Peyton Whitted) while also being a threat herself. Taylor, averaging 12.3 points on the season, has scored 17 points in both Big Ten wins.
“Everyone knows what we get from Maggie,” Taylor said. “She’s going to shoot lights out and she’s one of the best players in the country. But, we’ve got to make it hard for other teams to scout us. Myself, Ariel, our post players, we all have to come to play every game to take the pressure off of Maggie.
“We have to take advantage of not only our depth, but our height. We have some really good bigs. We have to get the inside-out game going and get some easy buckets inside the paint. We have to use all of our tools. We can’t just focus on letting Maggie shoot threes. We have to spread it out and make it difficult for other teams to guard us.”
And even with 27 turnovers Thursday, the Lady Lions proved they are still capable of scoring in big numbers. Each starter has a double-figure game in Big Ten play and Whitted is averaging 8.5 points off the bench in conference play.
“That’s one of our biggest strengths is that we have so many weapons,” Taylor said. “We have to take advantage of that game-in and game-out.”
Washington said Taylor is still learning when to be aggressive on the offensive end.
“She’s definitely getting more comfortable,” Washington said. “She kind of knows where her spots are and is getting much more adept at picking and choosing her spots --- when to insert herself and be impactful and when kind of step back and let things go for some of her teammates.”
Sunday’s contest will be the first home game for the Lady Lions and the third consecutive conference road game for Purdue. The two teams have fared differently away from home as Penn State has won twice, while the Boilermakers have suffered two upset losses.
While some teams adopt a “win at home, steal on the road” approach, Washington isn’t having any of that.
“We don’t look at road games versus home games,” she said. “We try to win every game. We really don’t buy into it’s more important to win on the road and take for granted that you’re going to win at home. We don’t prepare that way.”
She said her club will definitely have to be prepared for the Boilermakers, led by guards KK Houser (15.7 ppg) and Courtney Moses (14.7). Houser has nine 3-pointers in two Big Ten games and Moses is shooting 44 percent from long distance.
“They’re getting a lot of production from their backcourt,” Washington said. “Courtney Moses and KK Houser are two of the best guards in our conference and they are putting up good numbers. We know that they can go off at any time.
“They are getting up and down and playing probably a little bit faster than they have in years past. Their transition, shooting ability and backcourt is going to require a lot of attention from us.”
Versyp said starting with three straight road games is difficult, but that nothing is easy in the conference
“The Big Ten is very different,” she said. “Every possession matters. Every free throw matters. Every defensive stop matters.”
Notes: The game will broadcast on WRSC 1390-AM. … Early fans will receive a mini-bobblehead of Taylor. “I think they’re cool,” Taylor said. “They’re a fun idea.” … Purdue is the only team in the Big Ten that leads the series against the Lady Lions. The Boilermakers have a 26-17 edge, but are 8-10 at Penn State … The Lady Lions beat the Boilermakers 69-61 last season in the only meeting between the teams. … Purdue is eighth in the country in 3-point percentage (39.6). … Penn State is 2-0 in league play for just the second time in the last nine seasons. … Purdue is 0-2 in the league for just the fifth time in school history. … Moses has 193 career 3-pointers. … Waldner is shooting 75 percent (6 for 8) in league play.