Penn State women's basketball coach Coquese Washington has been voted Big Ten Coach of the Year for 2011-12, while Alex Bentley and Maggie Lucas earned first-team All-Conference honors. All five Lady Lions starters received All-Big Ten recognition of some kind.
Washington has led Penn State out of the wreckage that was the end of the Portland Era, to consecutive 24-plus-win regular seasons and now a Big Ten championship. The Lady Lions have now won 4, 6, 8, 11, and 13 conference games in Washington's first five seasons. It's been a remarkable, undeniable turnaround for a program that was once among the elite of women's college basketball. And depending on how this Penn State team performs in the conference tournament, and later in the NCAA bracket, a return to the elite might be at hand.
This year's team led the Big Ten in scoring (74.8 ppg) for the first time since the 2002-03. Penn State also won the Big Ten title for rebounding margin (+6.1) for the first time since 1998-99 (+5.1).
A first team choice last season, Bentley becomes the ninth different Lady Lion to earn first team accolades twice. Bentley became the 33rd player and 15th junior in school history to score 1,000 career points. Bentley also became the 13th player in school history to nab 200 steals.
Lucas makes the jump to first team after collecting second team honors as a freshman. She is the 12th different Penn State player to earn first team All-Big Ten recognition. One of the top sharp-shooters in the country, Lucas has expanded her game, scoring 82 more points (541-459) despite making 29 less three-pointers than a year ago (69-98)
Washington joins four-time winner Rene Portland (1994, 2000, 2003, 2004) as the Big Ten COTY. Penn State's 13 Big Ten wins are the most since the 2004-05 campaign. PSU's 10 road wins this year are the most for the Lady Lions since 1993-94. Penn State enters the Big Ten Tournament this week ranked No. 9 in the AP poll, the team's highest since 2003-04. The Lady Lions have been ranked every week of the 2011-12 season.
The Lady Lions head to Indianapolis for the 2012 Big Ten Tournament. Penn State is the #1 seed and will face the winner of the #8 Minnesota vs. #9 Wisconsin game at 6 p.m. Friday. The Lady Lions are the top seed for the first time since 2004. Penn State is 23-15 all-time in the Big Ten Tournament with tourney championships in 1995 and 1996.
Material from the GoPSUsports.com release was used in this report.