The Penn State Lady Lions (25-5, 14-2 B1G) open the 2013 NCAA Tournament in Baton Rogue, LA on Sunday against the Cal Poly Mustangs (21-10, 13-5 Big West). The #3 seeded Lady Lions are making their 24th apperance in the tournament, and their third in as many years. The #14 seeded Mustangs are experiencing March Madness for the first time in the program’s 29 year history. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPN3 with tip-off slated for 5:15 EST.
The Last Time Out
We last saw the Lady Lions all the way back on March 9th, in the B1G tournament. PSU, which won the regular season conference title, lost 54-46 to Michigan State in the semi-finals. The Lady Lions led early in the second half, and pulled back within one point after a 15-3 Spartan run, but ultimately couldn’t overcome their 22% shooting. It was a season low in points and shooting percentage for Penn State against the B1G’s top defensive team. Hopefully coach Coquese Washington had the girls practicing their jump shots over the past 15 days.
About the Cal Poly Mustangs
Cal Poly got invited to their first big dance by winning the Big West conference tournament. The past two seasons the Mustangs won the regular season title but failed to win an automatic bid, losing both years and competing instead in the WNIT. This year, as the #2 seed, they defeated top seeded Pacific in the conference finals.
Senior Kayla Griffin, the Big West Hustle Player of the Year, was injured in the game against Pacific and is out for the remainder of the season. She was averaging 7.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.5 assists for the season, starting all 31 games for Cal Poly.
Sophomore guard Ariana Elegado is second on the team in scoring at 12.3 points per game. Her scoring average was good for third in the Big West conference. Junior center Molly Schembler, 5’10”, leads the team in both scoring (13.0) and reboudning (7.2) on the year. She was the Big West Player of the Year, Big West Tournament MVP, and Big West Player of the Week twice. She has scored over 20 points seven times and has six double doubles on the season.
The Mustangs have won eight of their last nine games and will be playing hard for Griffin after her devasting knee injury. However, Cal Poly has not beaten any teams that qualified for the NCAA tournament.
The Match Up
The only common opponent between the two schools is Cal State Northridge, who went 0-1 against Penn State and 1-1 vs Cal Poly. With B1G Player of the Year, and National Player of the Year candidate Maggie Lucas leading the team with 20.5 points, Penn State shouldn’t really be tested. It helps that Penn State played in Baton Rogue last year as well, so they are famaliar with their surroundings (only 1 PSU player hasn’t played in the tournament before this season).
Seniors Alex Bentley and Nikki Greene need to step up in support of Lucas, especially Greene who will most liekly be paired up against Schembler. Assuming the Lady Lions left their shooting slump at the Sears Center, expect them to get out to an early lead and improve to 6-0 all-time against the Big West conference.