That lone word about sums up the feelings of Lady Lion fans, players and coaches following Penn State's loss to LSU in the second round of the NCAA tournament last night.
Despite winning their second straight Big Ten regular season title, despite having the Big Ten player of the year and coach of the year, the Lions were overmatched and, by all accounts, outcoached by an LSU squad that only was able to dress seven players for the game played on their home court.
The game last night was essentially the Lady Lions' game to lose, and that's what they did. They shot a decidedly-meh 42.9% FG, and were 3 of 12 from three. Three. Of Twelve. And B1G POTY Maggie Lucas? She was two of ten from the field, scoring four of her nine points off free throws and only nailing one three. Even when ice cold, though, Washington stuck with her star, who saw forty minutes of playing time--the most on the team, by far.
Typically this season, when Lucas is off (a rare occurrance), there's been enough leadership and experience on the rest of the team to make up for it. That didn't seem to be the case last night; seniors Nikki Greene and Alex Bentley were okay but not great, scoring 16 and 14 points respectively--though Bentley didn't score a single point in the second half. Greene did have sixteen rebounds, but only 1 block; Bentley only had three assists, the same number of fouls she recorded.
In order for the Lady Lions to win, as Bill pointed out, PSU needed to be offensive, putting pressure on LSU's defense--which didn't happen. The flip side is, of course, the Lady Tigers--who needed to be able to get around Penn State's defense and put up points. They were able to do that, with Adrienne Webb scoring a career-high 29 points and Bianca Lutley putting up 18 of her own.
So, the season ends early for the Lady Lions, who were actually seeded, in this humble blogger's opinion, in the most favorable of quarters, with a doable draw. Now will come the chorus of questions, about Washington's motivation and coaching techniques, about Lucas' drive and emotion. Not that that's entirely unwarranted; this team was chock full of experience (having beat LSU at LSU last year in the same round) and leadership (three seniors starting, with a trio of senior starters and another pair on the bench.
This was supposed to be the year for the Lady Lions, the year that they went far and would prove Washington's worth; with Bentley and Lucas finally in a good rhythm, and Greene coming into her own in the post. Alas, it was not to be, and the year with all the expectations ended up a relative bust, not even achieving the same success as 2012 (which, preseason, was one of lowered expectations for Penn State).
On to next year, which sees starters Lucas and Dara Taylor return, and key bench players Ariel Edwards and Talia East see more time. Also on the plus side? Coach Washington signed the largest freshman class in school history last fall, when seven players signed their letters of intent to enroll at PSU next fall--a class that could include as many as six of the top hundred Class of '13 women's basketball players in the country.
The 2013 basketball season may be done in Happy Valley, but there's no need to fret; at least this year, in this tournament, the Lady Lions are in good company. No #3 seed in the tournament made the Sweet Sixteen, with UCLA losing to Oklahoma, Texas A&M falling to Nebraska, and Elena Delle Donna and Delaware toppling UNC. Next year, let's hope for a sixth seed, eh?
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