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Penn State Women's Basketball: Lady Lions Looking to Take Next Step

by on April 08, 2012 6:00 AM

Maggie Lucas DVR’d the Final Four. But she hasn’t watched any of the three games, nor is she sure when she’ll be able to. 

When you’re two games shy of making the national semifinals, watching Connecticut, which handed the Lady Lions their final defeat of the season in the Sweet 16, or any of the other three teams is like picking at the scab.

This hurt. Even on the heels of Penn State’s best season in eight years.

“I’m certainly not satisfied,” Penn State coach Coquese Washington said last week. “I mean, the Sweet 16 is nice, but I think we can do better. I think this program can do better. I think our players can do better. I think I can do better as a coach.”

Such is how this program measures itself after finishing ninth in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ Poll, its highest finish since the 2003-04 season when it was sixth.

The Lady Lions (26-7, 13-3 Big Ten) also won their first conference championship in eight seasons, and Lucas became the program’s first sophomore AP honorable mention since Tanisha Wright in 2003.

Penn State returns all but one starter next season and adds a pair of one-time McDonald’s high school All-Americans in Maryland junior transfer Dara Tayor, who played AAU ball with Lucas and has practiced with the team all season, and 6-foot-6 forward Candice Agee, an incoming freshman that could provide frontcourt depth and contribute on the glass, an area of need going into next season, according to Washington.

“She’s going to be a freshman,” Washington said. “I think she’s very, very talented. It’s going to be interesting to see how she adjusts to the speed, the strength and physical play of the game.”

Following the spring semester, players can travel home to see family while working out. By mid-June, the team will be back in State College working out for the summer, rising senior Mia Nickson said. 

Washington kept mum on who the Lady Lions will face next season in the nonconference schedule because some contracts are not finalized, though it was previously announced the team starts a two-year series with UConn on the road next year.

“Our schedule is pretty aggressive next year,” Washington said. “We’re going to a Big 12 program and to the ACC. We’ve got the Big East coming here. We’ve got a pretty aggressive nonconference schedule, probably the most demanding nonconference schedule since I’ve been here and I think our team can handle it.”

It’s just another indication of the heights Washington wants to reach with this program heading into Year 6.

“I’d like to think I’ve gotten better as a coach over the five years,” she said. “I’ve certainly learned a lot and tried to put some of those lessons to use and help the program grow.

“I certainly feel at home in this position, and I certainly feel at home at Penn State.”

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Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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