March 23, 2012
Big Ten Weekly Release
Penn State and Minnesota continue postseason competition this week, with the Lady Lions reaching the regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament, while the Gophers will compete in the semifinals of the Women’s Basketball Invitational. Six Big Ten teams have reached the 20-wins mark, which ties a conference record, while several student-athletes and Penn State’s Coquese Washington remain in the running for national postseason honors.
Continuing the Streak
Penn State’s berth into the round of 16 marks the 25th time in 27 seasons the Big Ten has sent one or more teams into the regional semifinal round. Penn State heads back to the Sweet 16 for the seventh time as a member of the Big Ten, but the first under the direction of head coach Coquese Washington. The Lady Lions aim for their fourth appearance in the regional finals, having previously reached the national quarterfinals in 1994, 2000 and 2004.
Playing first- and second-round games in Baton Rouge, La., Penn State knocked off UTEP in the opening round before defeating host LSU in the second round en route to its berth into the regional semifinals. Against UTEP, four Lady Lion starters scored in double-figures, led by Alex Bentley’s 23 points in the 85-77 victory. In the second-round triumph over LSU, Maggie Lucas notched her second 30-point game of the season and was one of five Lady Lions to score 10 or more points in the 90-80 win over the host Tigers on Tuesday night.
With two wins at its first- and second-round site in Baton Rouge, La., Penn State advanced to the regional semifinal round for the first time since 2004, where it will take on Connecticut. The Lady Lions hold a 3-3 overall mark in the Sweet 16 as a member of the Big Ten, having last defeated Notre Dame in the regional semifinals in 2004 before falling to Connecticut in the regional finals.
Winning Over the WBI
Making the Big Ten’s first appearance in the Women’s Basketball Invitational, Minnesota has advanced to the tournament semifinals after winning its first and second round contests on its home floor last week. The Gophers will take on Manhattan on Friday, and a win would send them into the championship game against Northern Iowa, which would be played at 2 p.m. ET in Minneapolis. Minnesota advanced to the semifinals after a first-round win over Charleston Southern and a second-round victory against Bradley.
Piling Up the Wins
For only the third time in Big Ten history, six conference teams have reached the 20-wins mark. Penn State will finish as the conference leader in wins this season, entering the regional semifinal with 26 victories, marking the 12th time the Lady Lions have won 20 or more games as a member of the Big Ten. Ohio State and Purdue finished their seasons with 25 victories, the Buckeyes ninth-consecutive campaign of 20-plus wins and the Boilermakers 20th season of 20 or more wins in the last 25 years. First-year member Nebraska notched its fourth 20-win season in the last six years after posting 24 triumphs this year. Michigan and Michigan State each recorded 20 wins this season, the second time in three years the Wolverines have accomplished the feat and the eighth straight season the Spartans have reached 20 wins.
Roaring to the Top
After defeating Minnesota in its regular-season finale, Penn State secured sole possession of the Big Ten Championship, the Lady Lions’ first outright title since the 2003-04 season. It marks the sixth Big Ten title in Lady Lion history, having also won titles in 1994, 1995, 2000 and 2003, and the first under fourth-year head coach Coquese Washington.
Purdue Secures Eighth Conference Tournament Title
For the eighth time in the 18-year history of the Big Ten Tournament, Purdue was crowned the tournament champion after knocking off Nebraska in double-overtime, 74-70 in the championship game. It was the Boilermakers’ first tournament title since 2008, and the program improved its all-time record in the postseason event to a conference-best 34-10. Led by tournament Most Outstanding Player Brittany Rayburn, Purdue defeated Michigan State in the quarterfinals, before knocking off Penn State in the semifinal round.
Four Named WBCA All-Region Teamers
Four Big Ten players were named to the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-Region 6 Team. Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper, Penn State’s Alex Bentley and Ohio State’s Tayler Hill and Samantha Prahalis were part of the initial list of 52 All-Region team members, and that list will be cut to 40. Those earning spots on the list of 40 will be eligible for All-America honors, which will be announced on March 31.
Prahalis Named Wooden Award Finalist
Ohio State’s Samantha Prahalis was named one of 15 finalists for the Wooden Award, which honors the nation’s most outstanding player. Voted the Big Ten Player of the Year, Prahalis finished as the conference’s second-leading scorer at more than 20 points per game. She also finished the season with a conference-best 6.4 assists per game and became the Big Ten’s all-time career leader in the category during the Big Ten Tournament. Finishing with 2,010 points in her career, Prahalis is the 15th player in Big Ten history to surpass 2,000 career points and the only player in Big Ten history with 2,000 points and 900 assists.
Two Named Lieberman Award Finalists
Two Big Ten guards were named finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award, given annually to the nation’s top point guards. Nebraska’s Lindsey Moore and Ohio State’s Samantha Prahalis were two of eight players chosen as finalists, who were selected based on their leadership, play-making and ball-handling skills.
Washington Up For Coach of the Year Honors
Penn State’s Coquese Washington is in the running for two national coach of the year accolades. Named Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Region 6 Coach of the Year, Washington is one of eight coaches in the running for the WBCA national honor. She was also named to the 10-member United States Basketball Writers Association Coach of the Year watch list. Washington led the Lady Lions to their first Big Ten Championship in eight seasons in 2011-12 and was named conference Coach of the Year by both her peers and the media after leading the team to a 24-6 record overall and a 13-3 mark in Big Ten play.
Ranking Among the Nation’s Best
Several Big Ten standouts appear among the top 25 of the nation’s statistical leaders, according to information released by the NCAA. Three players appear among the top 25 in scoring. Ohio State’s Tayler Hill is 13th at 20.4 points per game, teammate Samantha Prahalis is 17th at 19.8 and Penn State’s Maggie Lucas is 18th at 19.6. Prahalis also ranks in the top 25 in assists per game with 6.3, good for 10th nationally. Michigan’s Jenny Ryan is 17th in steals per game at 3.06, followed by Penn State’s Alex Bentley in 21st with 3.0. Two Big Ten players rank among the top four in three-point percentage with Hill third at 41.8 percent and Lucas just behind in fourth, also at 41.8 percent. Ryan ranks fourth in the NCAA in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.49), Iowa’s Morgan Johnson ranks seventh in the country in field goal percentage at 54.9 percent and Ohio State’s Ashley Adams ranks eight in blocks per game at 3.0. Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper ranks 25th in the country with 14 double-doubles this season.
Conference Stat Champions
The Big Ten crowned its 2011-12 stat champions in conference games following the conclusion of the Big Ten season. Ohio State’s Samantha Prahalis won the Big Ten scoring title with an average of 22.5 points per game, marking the third time in four years a Buckeye has led the conference in the category. Her 22.5 points per game average is the highest since Penn State’s Kelly Mazzante averaged 25.1 points per game in the 2001-02 season. Prahalis also finished as the conference leader in assists per game, averaging 5.9 per outing to become the first player in conference history to lead the Big Ten in assists four years in a row. Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper emerged as the Big Ten’s leading rebounder this season, finishing with an average of 9.6 boards per contest.