We are. Yeah, I said it. We are.
Another weekend, another dominating performance for the Penn State Lady Lions; and this time, Coquese Washington dropped the mic on the Big Ten. Washington's club started the weekend by winning the outright Big Ten Regular Season Championship, beating 20th ranked Nebraska in Lincoln. The win, highlighted by the Lady Lions shooting 69.2% in the second half (including a nearly unbelievable 66.7% from behind the arc), gave Penn State it's most conference wins since the 2003-2004 Elite Eight season (14) and earned the squad the number 1 overall seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
And that was just the beginning.
On Monday, the 8th ranked Lady Lions dominated the 2013 All-Big Ten Conference Awards. Lions' sharpshooter Maggie Lucas was named Big Ten Player of the Year. Lucas is the third Penn Stater to win the award, following in the footsteps of Helen Darling and Kelly Mazzante, the Big Ten's all time leading scorer (male or female). Lucas averaged 20.5 points per game, shot 45% from the field, and ranked third in conference in 3-pointers made per game. She also contributed on the other end of the floor, averaging 2.3 steals per game, good enough for seventh in the Big Ten.
Lucas was a unanimous All-Big Ten First Team selection for the second straight year, and will have the opportunityto be the second Penn Stater to win consecutive Big Ten Player of the Year trophies next year. Mazzante won back-to-back honors in 2003 and 2004, her junior and senior seasons.
Of course, Lucas wasn't the only Penn State honoree yesterday. Senior point guard Alex Bentley was named an All-Big Ten First Team selection for the third time, and was also named to the conference's All-Defensive Team. Bentley closed out her Big Ten career in style, leading the Big Ten in steals (3.7 per game), finishing eleventh in scoring (14.0 points per game), and ninth in assists (3.6 assists per game).
Bentley leads the Big Ten and is in the Top 5 nationally in steals with a 3.7 per game average. She is also just the fourth player in school history to notch 100 steals in a season, joining Suzie McConnell (four times), Corinne Gulas (twice) and Helen Darling (once) as the only other players to accomplish the feat. Additionally, she is in the top 15 in the Big Ten in scoring (11th - 14.0), assists (9th - 3.6), free throw percentage (9th - .813) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3rd - 1.8). She is the the fourth player in conference history to finish with 1,500 points, 500 assists, and 300 steals.
Senior center Nikki Greene was named to her third All-Conference honor yesterday. An All-Big Ten Conference Third Team selection, Greene may be the most successful front court player in Penn State history. She is the only player in school history to finish with 1,000 points, 900 rebounds, and 200 blocks. She finished the season fifth in conference in rebounding, averaging 8.5 boards per game, and ninth in blocks (1.2 per game). If Greene pulls down 39 boards during the postseason, she will become the first Penn Stater in history to record 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
Two other Lady Lions also left their mark this year. Senior guard (and Maryland transfer) Dara Taylor was named to the All-Conference Defensive Team, and senior guard Gizelle Studevent was named as Penn State's 2012-13 Big Ten Sportsmanship Award winner.
But sometimes, we have to save the best for last. It's not often that Penn Staters thank Notre Dame for anything, but today is one of those rare occurrences. Thank you, Notre Dame, for Coquese Washington. Coach Washington (, Esq.,) was named Big Ten Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season. Since arriving at a downtrodden program following the dismissal of legendary (but embattled) coach Rene Portland, Washington has worked to bring Penn State back to prominence. The Lady Lions have improved their conference record in each of the last six years, and have won the Big Ten Regular Season Championship (twice!) for the first time since 2004. This year, Washington guided her team to a 5-1 record against ranked opponents (and averaged a 12 point margin of victory over them). Simply put, Coquese Washington is the best Penn State and the Big Ten Conference have to offer.
Congratulations to the Lady Lions on a fantastic regular season! Penn State returns to the court on Friday for the second round of the Big Ten Tournament, facing the winner of Thursday's Minnesota/Ohio State clash.
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