In the midst of the best scoring game of her short college career, Penn State freshman point guard Lindsey Spann left the floor for a substitute.
As she neared the bench, Lady Lion coach Coquese Washington pulled her aside and gave her an earful — an animated earful.
The message — little things matter.
“Lindsey statistically had a pretty good game, but I was on her about some of those little things,” Washington said of Sunday’s 96-66 romp over Wagner that snapped a six-game skid. The Lady Lions (2-6) travel to Hartford (3-6) at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
What were some of those little things that Washington wanted to see from Spann?
“She’s got to value the ball more and she’s got to make great decisions,” Washington said. “She’s really gifted with her vision and she has a great basketball IQ. She sees things happening and developing, especially on the offensive end. There are times she takes some risks that she shouldn’t probably take. I’m in her ear about that a lot about being a smart player and making plays that are going to lead to success.”
Those are some examples of what she calls the little things and the message is starting to sink in with her her young team.
“The funny thing about it is that the less that you do, the bigger the impact is,” said Keke Sevillian, who had a career-high three steals Sunday. “With us being inexperienced, we think that we have to come off the bench and make this big play, or pass or big shot. In all reality if we do the little things like making one more pass or sprinting here, it can do all of the difference in the world to make that big play that we all wanted.”
“The game Sunday really showed us what she was talking about,” added forward Kaliyah Mitchell, who had a career-high 20 points. “If we follow what she says and trust in her, we will have great outcomes. The little things play a big part in games.”
Washington said she’s having to emphasize even the smallest of things with her squad on the floor and even off. For example, she has batons for her substitutions to remind them who they are replacing. Even then, there was a mix-up on Sunday.
“When you have a veteran team you can take some of those little things for granted,” she said. “They’re just going to happen. With us, it’s all of the little things. It’s the details and the details for the entire team have to get tighter and a little sharper.”
Spann, who has scored in double figures in every game, is the player to which Washington pays particular attention. Having been a point guard at Notre Dame and in the WNBA, Washington knows how important it is that the team’s point guard make disciplined decisions.
“She’s on me about the little things because she knows that it’s the little details that I can fix that have such a big impact,” said the redshirt freshman, who scored 22 points against Wagner. “... It seems like it’s 10 times more than anyone else, but it’s only going to help me and make a better player. She expects a lot of me, but as a point guard I have to lead the team. I have to talk. I have to be smart. I have to know when to do this or when to do that. It’s the little things that I have to pay attention to.”
Hartford has Washington’s attention, even though the Hawks are off to a slow start, too.
The two teams met last season with Penn State pulling away in the second half for a 70-56 triumph against former UConn standout Jennifer Rizzotti‘s squad. The Hawks have three players scoring in double figures, led by Amber Bepko’s 14.2 average.
“I remember playing them here last year with an experienced team and it being a pretty tough game,” Washington said. “They’re a disciplined, a well-coached team and a good three-point shooting team. For a team that likes to play a lot of zone, that’s going to put some stress on us defensively.”
Penn State will have a huge size advantage with Candice Agee (6-6), Tori Waldner (6-5) and Mitchell (6-2) up front. Hartford’s tallest starter is 6-foot even.
Washington hopes doing the little things right lead to the team’s first winning streak of the season.
She’s using her patented formula to make that happen.
“It’s lots of practice and prayer — the two P’s,” she said with a grin.
When asked if one works better than the other, she replied, “Not, yet. They’re both about 50-50. I do equal amounts of practice and praying right now.”