December 20, 2010

Lady Lions beat Delaware 64-55 for their best start since 2002

Last basketball season, the Lady Lions started off with a fantastic 16-4 record. But down the stretch, things began to come apart. Penn State went 1-8 in the last nine regular season games. And while the Lady Lions were able to salvage a WNIT berth, it was definitely a disappointment to see such a promising season go down so quickly and so hard.
Maggie Lucas led Penn State with 16 points
in the win over Delaware.
(Photo: PSU/Mark Selders)

But can this season, as the Lady Lions are 10-2 with two games left in the non-conference slate, secure a different fate?

Penn State has been torching opponents with 85 points per game, with an average margin--win or lose--of 18.4 points in PSU's favor. The only losses have come in double overtime at Boston College, and at a Green Bay team that's been in and out of the top 25. Penn State has scored 90 or more points in regulation on four different occasions this year. In two of three overtime games, the Lady Lions have eclipsed 100 points.

But the high-flying offense hasn't been the only show in town. This past weekend in the BJC, Penn State faced Delaware. No big deal, right? Never heard of Delaware being all that great before. But hold on...

Delaware's Elena Delle Donne came into this game leading the nation with 26.2 points per game. Not to get too sidetracked here, but Delle Donne has one hell of an interesting story behind her. Briefly:
... But fun was never the objective. Delle Donne was the consensus 2008 Naismith National High School Basketball Player of the Year. She saw herself as the future of women's basketball. So did most everyone around her. She was supposed to follow her idol, Diana Taurasi, to Connecticut, win four national titles and become a superstar in the WNBA. [snip]

Delle Donne was a Connecticut Husky for all of 48 hours. She says it took her only that long to realize she lacked the passion to play the sport at the highest level. She says she could no longer pretend. [snip]

"I'm still not able to see how that makes any sense. I didn't understand it and haven't understood it right from the beginning." [snip]

"Nope," [UConn head coach Geno] Auriemma says. "Not anybody that was any good -- let's put it that way. Never experienced anything like that from somebody who is really talented and successful.

"How could [you] get to be the best if you don't have some passion for it?" he asks. "It would've come out a long time before. A lot of kids probably don't like playing piano, but I don't know that you become the best if you don't like it at all. At some point, you would screw it up on purpose, wouldn't you?"
Wow, what a jerk, huh? We all hated him and UConn (in a purely sporting sense, of course) before, but really dude? Talk about a whining baby. We're sorry if not everyone can be as OMG-AWSUM! as your beloved Diana.

Delle Donne countered Auriemma in that article, saying that no one can understand burnout unless they've experienced it, adding that she wouldn't rule out playing basketball again in the future. Donne played volleyball at Delaware for a year, then decided to come back to basketball.

Before we're done with Delle Donne, let me just say that burnout in anything is a real thing. You absolutely can be a virtual virtuoso at something, but at some point lose the passion to do it.

Back to Penn State. Delle Donne finished against Penn State with only 25 points, 17 in the second half. The 55 points scored by the Blue Hens (6-2) was the second-lowest offensive showing this season.

For the Nittany Lions (10-2), Freshman Maggie Lucas drained two key three-pointers in the final 4:09 to lead the Lions. She finished the game with 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting. She also pulled in four rebounds and had two steals.

Sophomore guard Alex Bentley scored 10 of her 13 points after the break. She also added six assists, four rebounds and two steals. Sophomore center Nikki Greene added 11 points and five rebounds, while senior Julia Trogele chipped in seven points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Mia Nickson continued her solid play for the Lady Lions with eight points and six rebounds.

With four three-pointers, Lucas moved into a tie for fourth place on Penn State's freshman season three-pointers list with 39 treys. Tyra Grant also had 39 three-pointers her rookie season (2006-07). Lucas surpassed the 200-point mark for her career (203). Penn State's 10 non-conference wins are the most since the 2002-03 season.

Some highlights:

The Lady Lions are back in action at the Bryce Jordan Center on Tues., Dec. 21 at 7:30 p.m., against Drexel. The game is part of a men's and women's doubleheader with the Nittany Lions taking on Maine at 5 p.m.

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  1. Elena's last name is Delle Donne, not just Donne.

  2. Fixed. Thanks for the catch.