You don’t have to explain to Penn State’s women’s basketball players that one of their big preseason goals is hopelessly lost.
They know there will be no fourth consecutive Big Ten title.
But even though they’re 0-7 in the league and losers of eight straight entering Thursday’s 7 p.m. clash with Indiana, the Lady Lions don’t believe the season is hopeless.
“Obviously, our goal was always to be the four-time Big Ten champion,” guard Keke Sevillian said. “Yes, our goals have adjusted. Every game we look to win and we also are looking toward making progress for the Big Ten Tournament. We have 11 more games to make improvement and get better with things we need to adjust.”
“You do have to adjust some goals, but I think that we have to keep a positive mindset,” forward Kaliyah Mitchell added. “We still have the Big Ten Tournament to look forward to. Even if it’s not the season we want, we can still go into the tournament and we can have upsets and change it around. We don’t have to let the past be our future.”
The past has certainly been rough so far for Penn State (3-15). The Lady Lions are being outscored by a 76.4-54.7 margin in league play. They haven’t won since Dec. 14.
But in Sunday’s 69-60 loss to Ohio State, the Lady Lions saw some signs of progress. Playing without leading scorer Lindsey Spann, they scrapped with the Buckeyes (12-7, 4-3) for the full 40 minutes. They held a squad featuring a pair of 20-point scorers to 36 percent shooting.
“Losing always sucks,” Sevillian said. “We’re never happy with losing. ... We were happy with the way we competed and the improvements that we’ve made from the last game.”
“Ohio State was probably our most complete game in terms of playing and executing what we wanted to do for the majority of the game,” Lady Lion coach Coquese Washington said. “Defensively, we did a fair job of being active in the zone and just making Ohio State taking contested shots more often than not.”
Mitchell started in Spann’s stead and responded with 14 points and three steals. Tori Waldner and Sevillian added nine and eight points, respectively, well above their season averages.
“I think that game showed that we have other people that can help us out and contribute to the team,” Mitchell said. “We missed Lindsey, but there were other people who were able to step up and fill in some gaps.”
Spann, who was sidelined with the flu, has practiced with the team this week, but Washington said her status is still uncertain.
“ I’m not sure if she’s going to play Thursday,” Washington said of Spann, who is averaging 15.3 points per game. “The flu bug hit her pretty hard. ... I would anticipate she would suit up and play but I’m not sure how much she’s going to be able to give us.”
Penn State fans will be hoping for the Lady Lions to end the skid. They are four losses from the program record of 12 straight.
Washington says she’s not concerned if the losing streak continues to grow. She’s focused on improving her team.
“In December, I wasn’t worried about if we were going to win a game,” she said. “You take every game on it’s own merit. The seasons are long and we’ve got a lot of conference games left. Until its mathematically impossible for us to win a game, then I don’t really put a lot of stock, focus and attention on it.”
Could they go through the conference season winless?
“That’s not really in our heads right now,” Mitchell said. “We’re looking forward. We may not have not won some in the past, but the past doesn’t tell you what is going to happen next. We’re keeping our heads. We’re thinking positive. We’re going into practice trying to get better and looking forward to the next game and trying to get a win.”
They’ll face a team that historically has been one of their biggest victims.
Penn State holds a 31-9 edge against the Hoosiers and has won the last six meetings.
Indiana (12-5, 2-4) is in its first season under Teri Moren, who spent the previous four seasons at Indiana State. The Hoosiers are led by Larryn Brooks (12.3 ppg), one of three players scoring in double figures.
“Larryn Brooks is their engine,” Washington said. “She’s the heart and soul of that team. She’s still shooting the ball deep, is creative off the dribble and they’ve added some pieces. ... They’ve got a good balance of inside and outside points. I think they’ve responded well to the new coaching. They’re playing good basketball.”
Penn State returns home for just the third time in conference play. The Lady Lions also host Northwestern on Sunday.
“The schedule gods didn’t shine on us in terms of how we start the season with seven of our first 11 games being on the road. Being able to come home for a couple of games will be nice,” Washington said. “Our crowd has been really good this year, understanding this a transition year for us. They’ve been incredibly supportive and loud.”