An exhibition game is supposed to provide a basketball team several things to work on before the regular season starts.
After Sunday’s clash with Indiana, Pa., Penn State women’s coach Coquese Washington has plenty.
The Lady Lions were tied with the Division II Crimson Hawks with under eight minutes to go before pulling away for a 75-71 triumph.
Transfer Sierra Moore scored 15 of her team-high 18 points over the final 8:13 as the Lady Lions survived 14 3-pointers, including six fom IUP’s Amy Fairman, who led all scorers with 26. Lindsey Spann (14), Kaliyah Mitchell (14) and Jenny DeGraaf (11) also scored in double figures for Penn State, which opens its season Nov. 14 at the Bryce Jordan Center against Towson in the Preseeason WNIT.
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With four starters missing from a squad that captured the program’s third consecutive Big Ten regular-season championship, Washington is under no illusion that things are going to be easy this season.
Sunday was proof, even though the Lady Lions raced to a 24-10 lead.
They finished with 20 turnovers and were whistled for 24 fouls.
IUP, behind its long-ranging gunning, led 54-50 with more than 10 minutes remaining.
“It’s about what I expected,” Washington said of the contest. “We’re really young. At one point, I looked out there on the floor and we had a freshman and four sophomores.
“Some of the things that you take for granted when you have veteran players — the communication, the depth of understanding of defensive rotations or how to attack the gaps of a zone — it is easier when you have three or four veterans and you are plugging in one new person. When you have four people out there who really don’t know what they are doing — and sometimes five — then it is more of a question of how it is going to go wrong on this trip down the floor instead not if. What creative way can we make it easier for IUP?”
Moore, who sat out last season after transferring from Duke, picked up three first-half fouls and was a non-factor offensively until the final eight minutes. With the score tied at 56, she scored on a backdoor layup and had a steal and bucket to give Penn State the lead for good.
Two more Moore baskets pushed the margin to 66-56 with three minutes remaining. The Lady Lions held on from there.
“I definitely think you saw her competitiveness and her will to win,” Washington said of Moore.
“I don’t think it was just me coming alive,” said Moore, a 5-foot-11 sophomore. “I think we started working better as a team and making the extra pass. It was making sure someone was open and just finishing after that.”
Washington had praise for Spann, who also missed last season after suffering a knee injury. The freshman had four assists and two turnovers in 37 minutes of action.
“I just wanted to try to push the ball and get out in transition as much as possible and play faster than I’m used to playing,” said Spann.
“I thought Lindsey did a pretty good job of running the team for a freshman who has never played a game before and also playing with other newbies,” Washington said. “... I thought she did a fantastic job of leading the team and running the team. She is only going to get better.”
DeGraaf delivered 11 points off the bench and was the only Lady Lion to make a 3-pointer. Peyton Whitted (10) and Mitchell (9) helped Penn State secure a 48-27 edge on the boards.
Marita Mathe added four 3-pointers for the Crimson Hawks, who were 18-10 a season ago.
IUP coach Tom McConnell, whose’s sister Susie starred at Penn State, said he appreciated the opportunity to play the Lady Lions. He liked what he saw from his squad, which had 20 assists on 23 baskets.
“The biggest positive for us that we talked about with our team following the game is that I believe we exhibited toughness and compete, and the second thing is we got down, showed poise and we were unselfish,” he said.
Washington has a little more than a week before the season kicks off
“I think there is certainly a lot of room for improvement for us and I know that we will get better,” she said. “Some of the mistakes that were made are just mistakes because of lack of experience and lack of in-game chemistry. There is a certain chemistry that you develop in the game from having played with each other and being able to communicate through the crowd noise, through the emotion. We’ve just got to develop that.
“There are some spurts where we did some really good things. You can see that when we put some things together, that we will be pretty good.”
Not on the floor
Post players Candice Agee and Alex Harris warmed up before the game, but were the only eligible Penn State players not to see action against IUP.
“It was my decision not to play them,” Washington said. “It was just my decision.”