Penn State (22-7) are in the NCAA tournament for the fourth consecutive season after winning the Big 10 regular season title for the third time straight year. The Nittany Lions have won five-of-its past seven games and are12-4 at the Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State is 17-5 all-time in the NCAA Tournament at home.
Senior guard Maggie Lucas, who was named the Big 10 Player of the Year, leads the Nittany Lions with 21.4 points a game. She is all-time three-point shooter in Penn State and Big 10 history (358 triples) as well as second in school history in scoring with 2,460 points . Lucas, who also grabs 4.1 rebounds a game, is also a phenomenal free throw shooter (90.7 percent for career).
Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year Dara Taylor (11.7 ppg, 4.8 apg) runs the show for the Nittany Lions and she will be responsible to get the ball inside to Ariel Edwards (15.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Talia East (7.9 ppg) if Wichita State defense focuses on Lucas.
Wichita State (26-6), champions of the Missouri Valley Conference, is led by 5-11 junior Alex Harden who averages 17.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. Guard Jamillah Bonner and forward Michelle Price chip in 13.1 points and 12.3 points, respectively.
The Shockers won four consecutive games and is a respective 9-4 in road games. However, Wichita
Wichita State is in the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season and second time in program history. The Shockers, who set a school record for wins this year, lost to Texas A&M 71-45 in the first round last year.
Wichita State is 0-2 against teams in the NCAA tournament this season, losing at Oklahoma (89-70) and home to St. Joseph’s (81-73). The Shockers, have an RPI ranking of 83, have no quality wins and four bad losses.
Keys to game
Wichita State must contain Lucas
The key for any team playing Penn State is to contain Maggie Lucas and Wichita State has the defense to do just that. The Shockers, who rank 18th in the nation in scoring defense (57.2 ppg), have two MVC All-Defensive First Team players – Harden (MVC Defensive Player of the Year) and Bonner -- who have the ability to guard Lucas. Wichita State has limited teams to 38.2 percent shooting from the field and just 28.8 percent from beyond the arc.
Lucas can score multiple ways and has proven to be a tough person to contain. She has produced 63 20-point games and 13 30-point games in her career. Lucas, who has scored at least 20 points twice in NCAA tournament play, has dumped in 20 or more points 16 times this year and has topped the 30-point plateau three times.
Penn State must get the ball inside the paint:
The Nittany Lions have a decisive height advantage as the Shockers. Wichita State tallest player is 6-2 Kelsey Jacobs while Penn State boasts six players at least 6-3 including three starters – Edwards, East and 6-5 center Tori Waldner. The Nittany Lions can also bring 6-5 Candice Agee, 6-3 Alex Harris and 6-3 Peyton Whitted off the bench.
Edwards needs just three points to become the 36th player in Penn State history to tally 1,000 points. She has posted seven 20-point games, including a career-high 29 against Ohio State on March 7, and four double-doubles this season. East isn’t the scorer that Edwards is but has reached double-figures nine times and has recorded four double-doubles this season.
The team that does this will win: Rebound, gets the free throw line and win the turnover battle.
Penn State has the better offense while Wichita State is the better team defensively.
The Nittany Lions average 75.9 points a game and give up 66.6 points a contest – Penn State has surrendered over 90 points twice in the past three games. Penn State shoots 43.1 percent from the floor and has struggled from beyond the arc (31.7 percent). Defensively, the Nittany Lions hold teams to 37.7 percent from floor and 31.9 percent from the three-point line.
Wichita State averages 71.6 points a game and shoots 44.7 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from the three-point line.
The biggest difference and likely what will determine the outcome is rebounding and turnovers. Penn State averages 44.4 rebounds a game and holds a plus seven rebounding margin. The Nittany Lions, who have five players grab at least four caroms a contest, average over 14 offensive rebounds a game. Penn State gets to the charity stripe a bunch – 24 times a game and shoots 77.8 percent from the charity stripe- but also turns over the ball often 16.1 times. They force about 17 turnovers a game and commit 15 fouls a contest.
Wichita State grab 36.8 rebounds a game and holds a plus 1.1 rebound margin. The Shockers grab over 12 offensive boards a game but their opponents haul in over 11 offensive rebounds a contest. Wichita State shoots 69.6 percent from the foul line and commits about 20 fouls a game. However, they do a good job protecting the ball with about 13 turnovers a game while also forcing 19 turnovers a contest.
Head coaches: Coquese Washington (PSU), Jody Adams (Wichita St.)
Washington, who was selected the Big 10 Coach of the Year for the third straight year, has compiled a 140-80 record in seven seasons with the Nittany Lions. She has led Penn State to a 5-3 NCAA tournament since 2011.
Adams is the all-time winningest coach in Shockers’ women’s basketball history with a 118-77 record. She is 0-2 all-time in the NCAA tournament, having previously led Murray State to a tournament bid in 2008.
Prediction: Penn State 73, Wichita State 60