Maybe a change of scenery will be good for the Penn State women’s basketball team.
The Bryce Jordan Center hasn’t been very kind so far.
The Lady Lions (1-3) travel to Atlanta for the Georgia State Classic where they will face Liberty (2-2) in the opening round at 2 p.m. Penn State will face either Georgia State (2-0) or Samford (3-1) on Sunday.
Coquese Washington’s squad enters the holiday tournament having lost three straight home games by a total of eight points. Penn State fell 56-54 to St. Bonaventure, a team they had never lost to, on a layup with 1.4 seconds left.
Washington is hoping her team can regroup in Atlanta.
“Sometimes when you have a couple of tough games, a change of scenery is great,” she said. “A change of scenery might be good for this team. We go down to Georgia and face some different teams in a different venue and we’ll see how that works out for us.”
Some of her more experienced players may need it. Tori Waldner, Kaliyah Mitchell and Peyton Whitted, the returnees who saw the most playing time last season, have struggled thus far.
Senior Waldner, who had hoped to be more of an offensive threat this season, is averaging 5.8 points, exactly one point more than last season. She does lead the Lady Lions in rebounding (8.3 rpg) and blocked shots (10). The past two games Waldner has come off the bench.
Mitchell, a sophomore forward, is struggling offensively. She is shooting just 26 percent (8 for 31) from the floor and averages 7.3 points. She also has 12 turnovers, the most among Penn State’s players who aren’t point guards. She is second on the squad in rebounding (7.0).
Whitted, a sophomore forward, is averaging four points per game. She’s shooting better from the field (37 percent) than she is from the foul line (29 percent).
They have company, too.
Keke Sevillian, who has seen her playing time almost triple from last season, is shooting 20 percent from the field and 33 percent from the foul line.
What is the problem?
“I think they’re adjusting to new roles,” Washington said. “Some of the other kids aren’t adjusting to a different role — they’re just playing the role that they have had.”
Washington points to a recent graduate who had the same problems. Ariel Edwards lost a starting role as a junior but came on as a senior to become the team’s second-leading scorer and an all-conference pick. Edwards is now playing professionally in Spain.
“I remember a couple of years ago Ariel Edwards’ adjustment to being an impact player off the bench to starting,” Washington said. “She struggled with that her entire junior year. Sometimes it’s tougher to adjust to a new role than it is to adjust to the role you get initially.”
One player that has adjusted well is Jenny DeGraaf. The sophomore guard, who played just 76 minutes her entire freshman season, has played 88 minutes in the first four games. She’s averaging 6.5 points overall and 8.7 over the last three games.
“Jenny is playing with a lot of confidence,” Washington said. “She can make shots. She’s a big, strong kid. She stretches the zone. I like what she gives us. She’s playing some pretty good basketball.”
The Lady Lions will face a team that dealt a crippling blow to the program in their only meeting. Liberty stunned Penn State 78-70 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in 2005.
Penn State had four consecutive losing seasons after that defeat.
The Flames, who have made 12 NCAA Tournament appearances under Carey Green, are also off to a slow start. They enter the event coming off a 73-62 loss to Elon.
Liberty is one of the few teams that can match the Lady Lions’ size. The Flames start 6-foot-5 Katelyn Adams and 6-foot-4 Ashley Rininger and can bring in 6-foot-6 Catherine Kearney off the bench.
Karly Buer, a transfer from Missouri State, leads Liberty with a 12.5 average. She has scored in double figures in her first four games. Rininger averages 12.0 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.