You don’t have to go to Folsom Prison to “hear that whistle blowin.”
Try the Bryce Jordan Center.
In two regular-season games and a preseason exhibition, the Penn State women’s basketball team has been whistled for 68 fouls.
And that could have the Lady Lions (1-1), who face Seton Hall (1-1) in a 7 p.m. home clash Saturday, singing the blues.
The fouls were costly in Penn State’s 54-53 loss against Albany in the WNIT Preseason quarterfinals, as the Great Danes held a 24-13 edge in free throws attempted and a 16-9 edge in foul shots made. Appropriately, the winning margin came on a free throw with 8.4 seconds left.
“I just know that the refs are calling a lot of fouls and they’re calling it really close,” said guard Sierra Moore, one of six Penn State players who had four fouls against Albany.
“We’ve got to know about the little touchy fouls,” added point guard Lindsey Spann, who has picked up three first-half fouls in both regular-season games. “We have to adjust to how the refs are calling the game. We have to know that we can’t put our hands on them or the posts can’t extend. It’s just little things defensively. You can’t make the stupid touch fouls or reach in.”
Penn State coach Coquese Washington is concerned with the whistles, but not solely from a defensive perspective.
“At the beginning of the year there are always a lot more fouls called,” Washington said. “... So more than being disappointed with our fouls, we’re encouraging our kids to be more aggressive on offense so we can get to the foul line more. We’ve got to get more free throws. We’ve got to put pressure on the defense by attacking the paint and getting the ball inside more.”
Getting the ball inside has been a challenge.
With outstanding outside shooting, especially from all-time Big Ten 3-point leader Maggie Lucas, in recent seasons, opponents were reluctant to throw a zone at the Lady Lions for extended periods.
But Lucas has taken her game to the WNBA and Europe. Both Towson and Albany packed the paint, daring the young Lady Lions to convert from outside. Penn State is 9 for 25 (36 percent) from long range.
“It’s a little bit more difficult,” said Washington, whose team is averaging 62 points per game. “That’s the reason you play zone — to keep the ball out of the paint. Developing our patience on offense and moving the ball a little bit more against the zone, we’ll get some things. We didn’t see much zone in the past years. Executing against the zone for this team is going to take a little bit more time.”
Moore, a slashing guard, said the focus in practice is to get to the basket.
“We’re doing some things in practice where we’re finding the gaps and finding ways to get it into the paint,” Moore said.
Finding those gaps often falls to point guard Spann, a redshirt freshman.
“When you move the ball quickly, you can get in those gaps and you can look for the posts when they’re open,” Spann explained. “We need to move at a faster pace against the zone.”
Penn State did get some welcome relief from outside against Albany from sophomore Jenny DeGraaf, who played sparingly last season. DeGraaf was a perfect 4 for 4 from long range against the Great Danes, including a bomb that tied the score at 53-53.
“That’s my role on the team,” DeGraaf said. “The coaching staff has made that pretty clear to me and the other girls when I’m on the floor. I’ve got to get myself open and when the girls have the chance to get me the ball I get it and I’ve been able to knock some shots down. That’s pretty important — to grasp my role and attack it.”
Throw in the extra whistles for turnovers — the Lady Lions have 38 in two games — and attack mode stalls.
DeGraaf said the key is making adjustments. “We can’t let what the refs and what they are calling affect us,” she said. “... However they’re calling it that night, that’s what we have to adjust to and work off of that. We have to get our rhythm regardless of what they’re calling or not.”
Seton Hall can empathize with the Lady Lions. They were whistled for 27 fouls in an 89-87 loss against No. 17 West Virginia on Monday. The Pirates had a tying layup rim out at buzzer.
Tabitha Richardson Smith nailed seven 3-pointers on the way to a 32-point night against the Mountaineers. Ka-Deidre Simmons added 20.
“They are a pretty aggressive team,” Washington said of the Pirates. “They have really quick guards who do a great job of attacking the basket and they have a really good outside shooter who stretches the defense. They’re going to put pressure on our defense with their dribble penetration.”
Harris out indefinitely
Washington said that sophomore forward Alex Harris will not play for awhile.
“She is taking some time off,” Washington said. “She’s dealing with some personal issues. She hasn’t been at practice for awhile. Once she clears that stuff up and she’s able to practice, she’ll be ready to play some games. There’s no timetable for that. She’s just got to deal with these issues and we’re going to respect her time that she needs to take to deal with that.”
Penn State is 9-0 all-time against Seton Hall, including 4-0 at the Jordan Center. ... The last time the two teams played was 16 years ago when Penn State rolled 81-48. ... The biggest meeting between the two schools came in the Sweet 16 in 1994 with the Lady Lions pulling out a 64-60 win in Austin, Texas. ... Penn State is 31-10 all-time against current Big East teams.