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Jerry Fisher: Lady Lions Hope to Continue Charmed Season Against No. 1 Seed Connecticut

by on March 25, 2012 6:00 AM

WHO: No. 4 Penn State (26-6, 13-3 Big Ten) vs. No. 1 Connecticut (31-4, 13-3 Big East)

WHEN: 4:34 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Kingston, R.I.

TV: ESPN2

ONLINE: ESPN3.com

RADIO: ESPN 1450 am

KINGSTON, R.I. — As we head into the Sweet 16 for the Penn State Lady Lions, there are still many who have marveled at the amazing way this team has been able to pick up big wins on the road this season while going to some of the tougher arenas in the country.

Don’t get me wrong, Penn State did not win every game on the road, including some tough losses at Delaware and at Texas Tech, but considering it did get road wins while visiting Purdue, South Carolina, Nebraska and Minnesota, being on the road was not a worry for the Lady Lions this past Tuesday when facing LSU in the second round of the Big Dance.

This Penn State team has shown some tremendous resiliency in being able to handle big crowds and talented teams with a mixture of great chemistry on and off the court and the ability to get the job done when needed. The Lady Lions found themselves down by six in the second half of the LSU game at a very rowdy and loud Pete Maravich Assembly Center, and the Tigers were on a bit of a roll.

Penn State coach Coquese Washington calmly called a timeout very close to when there would have been a timeout called for the media break, perhaps realizing that not only her timeout could stop the LSU surge, but then when the next dead ball occurred, there would be that media timeout and another way to slow down the host team.

Whether or not that was her intention, I believe it was a great move in a great game that was a major turning point in the outcome, as the Lady Lions came from behind and outscored LSU, 90-80 to give the Lady Lions the opportunity to head to Kingston, R.I., for a Sweet 16 matchup against perennial power Connecticut, the No. 1 seed in the Kingston Regional.

Will there be a rowdy crowd in Kingston for this game, heavily favoring the Huskies? Of course there will. That’s how the women’s NCAA Tournament works.

Until the women’s game can draw crowds at neutral sites, this is the way it is going to be. The higher seeds will be protected by either hosting a regional or having them relatively close so their fans can more easily travel to those sites, buy tickets and souveniers and spend money, which as we all know, is what drives these post season tournaments.

The women still have a long way to go in that regard, and until basketball fans go to the women’s games to see basketball and not just to see their fans specifically, this won’t change anytime soon.

Kudos to the Lady Lion Cager Club for sponsoring a bus for Sunday’s game in Kingston, and kudos to those fans making the long trip to support the Lady Lions. I have no idea how many are going, but for the club to take this on shows great support for the team. The Lady Lion Cager Club is a great way to support your favorite Penn State team. Many of the Nittany Lion teams do indeed have specific booster clubs that have really grown over the years that are an easy, inexpensive way to get behind the team or teams you like most.

Back to basketball — I have seen a lot of games over my 32 years of having the amazing privelege of doing the play-by-play for the Lady Lions. There have been some incredible players who will forever be etched in my mind, players like Carol Walderman, Susie McConnell-Serio, Susan Robinson, Kadeejah Herbert, Helen Darling and that entire Final Four team from 2000 — Kelly Mazzante, and I could go on and on.

There are some not-so-household-names as well, such as Robin Lombard, Jenny Kretchmar, Sue Martin, Nancy Kuhl, Debbie Christman and more. These are the players, of high notoriety or not, that make each and every team of Lady Lions distinct in its own way.

This team is something special as well, with those previously mentioned personalities dotting the roster, it may not go to the Elite Eight, it may not make the Final Four, but there is really something special about this team that kind of makes you smile when you think about them.

Oh well, fun to think back and remember, but now it's time to think about the Huskies and a trip to New England.

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Jerry Fisher hosts "Centre County This Morning," appearing weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. on 970 WBLF. He is now a regular columnist for StateCollege.com, as well.
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