Penn State Basketball

Penn State women’s basketball: Lady Lions hope to avoid droughts against Rutgers

A shot goes up and clanks off the rim.

The ball gets thrown away on the next possession.

The opponent nails a 3-pointer.

And the hits just keep on coming..

In a matter of minutes a close game has turned into a blowout.

It’s a scenario that has become all too familiar for the Penn State women’s basketball team this season, especially in conference play.

Heading into Saturday’s clash against No. 24 Rutgers, the Lady Lions (3-12 overall, 0-4 Big Ten) have experienced long offensive droughts in each of their Big Ten games.

The latest came Tuesday as the Lady Lions netted just two baskets over the first 10 minutes of the second half and Wisconsin rallied from a two-point halftime deficit to roll to a 65-46 victory.

Players are at a loss why the score turns south so fast.

“It’s just one of those things,” Penn State guard Jenny DeGraaf said. “A lot of teams go through it. It’s something we’re struggling with right now. We do find those droughts throughout the game where we don’t score for multiple minutes. I don’t want to say it kills our confidence, but it kills the vibe of the game. If we get going and all of a sudden we can’t score, it drains us a little bit. We’re working on it.”

“When people go on runs, we have a tendency to panic,” admitted forward Peyton Whitted. “We kind of go outside of ourselves and do things that we don’t do in practice.”

Lady Lion coach Coquese Washington points to a roster that has just one senior and one junior in the rotation.

“When things go wrong, our tendency so far this season has been we haven’t been able to stop it quickly,” Washington said. “When you have more veteran players on the floor, they understand how long the game is. They understand how long four minutes is.

“Young players don’t always understand that. They may understand that intellectually, but experientially what they are feeling out there is, ‘Oh, my God. Oh, my God.’ When you have three or four veterans out there, they kind of get it.”

What’s the answer for this group?

“It’s just discipline I guess, throughout the entire game,” guard Sierra Moore said. “When we are disciplined, we play really well and we play like the team we are supposed to look like. It’s just discipline.”

The shooting has not been there on all levels. In Big Ten play, the Lady Lions are shooting 38 percent from the floor, 21 percent from 3-point range and 60 percent from the foul line.

Freshman Lindsey Spann has been the only consistent scorer in league play with a 17.5 average, but even she is shooting 37 percent from the floor. The Lady Lions have been outscored 105-27 from 3-point range.

“There’s not a ton you can do,” DeGraaf said of the shooting droughts. “You just have got to keep shooting. You’ve got to stay confident in your shot and the game plan. … The scoring will come.”

Staying positive in the midst of the worst start in school history is a key say the Lady Lions.

“It is frustrating but we’re learning a lot as each game goes,” Whitted said. “We see some strides. We’re getting better.”

“It’s knowing that we are a good team and we just have to show it that’s what keeps us together,” Moore said.

They’ll face a team Saturday that’s already very good.

The Scarlet Knights, led by the legendary C. Vivian Stringer, are off to an 11-4 start, 2-2 in league play. They thumped Michigan 81-63 on Wednesday, the same Wolverines that buried Penn State by 30 points earlier this season.

Rutgers’ balanced attack is led by Tyler Scaife (16.8 ppg), Betnijah Laney (16.0 ppg, 12.4 rpg) and Kahleah Copper (14.4 ppg).

“They’re a very athletic team,” Washington said. “They do a really good job of rebounding the ball and using their athleticism to pound the glass.

“(Tyler Scaife) can create her own shot. Kahleah Copper finishes around the rim in a variety of ways and then you have Betnijah Laney who does it all for them and does a good job of making big shots. And then they bring some really good shooters off the bench. They have a full complement offensively in scoring inside and outside. And, they use their athleticism very well on the defensive end. Taking care of the ball is really going to be key to the game for us.”

“I got a chance to watch them (Wednesday),” Whitted said. “They are very physical. They do look inside a lot. They’re very athletic and run the floor hard. We’re going to have to run with them and not give up any possessions.”

The Lady Lions remain confident they can pull out of a five-game skid.

“I think we are remaining patient,” Moore said. “Sometimes we flip a little bit because nobody likes to lose. We’re tired of losing. We have to keep fighting and keep practicing hard every day.

“Every game is a good opportunity,” Moore added. “We have to go out there and play hard.”

Notes: Penn State is 18-20 all-time against Rutgers, which is in its debut season in the Big Ten. The teams last met in 2006 in the Paradise Jam Tournament with Rutgers winning 57-44. ... Penn State is 11-3 at home against Rutgers with none of those games at the Jordan Center. ... The Lady Lions are 3-5 at home this season. ... Rutgers won the WNIT title last season. ... The Scarlet Knights are 6-1 on the road this season.

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