Half-court heaves pay off for Penn State
Penn State coach Rene Portland has won almost 500 games in her career. One reason is that she prepares her teams for every possibility.
So every day at the end of practice, the Penn State players stand at half court and heave the ball toward the basket. Practice doesn’t end until three of those shots go in.
``Sometimes it takes them forever and I start counting _ 10, nine, eight, because I want to go home to my family,″ Portland said with a laugh. ``But it’s competition between the guards and the big kids. We do that every day to win a game.″
That work paid off at Iowa last Tuesday. It wasn’t a half-court shot, but Tara Macciocco did hit an impressive 30-footer at the buzzer to give Penn State a 61-60 victory. Macciocco was able to get the shot off after Penn State inbounded the ball from under the Iowa basket with only 3.2 seconds left.
Portland was hoping that victory would turn around what to date has been a most uncharacteristic season.
After winning its first seven games and climbing to ninth in The Associated Press poll, Penn State lost its next five _ the first five-game losing streak in school history. Only once before, in January 1989, had Penn State even lost four straight games.
The Lady Lions ended that skid with a 93-90 victory at Indiana, then lost to Illinois and Purdue before edging Iowa.
``You want to talk about emotion, you should be with our team for the last few weeks. We have been through every emotion,″ Portland said. ``We were the team that was 7-0 and now we get three votes in the Top 25 poll.
``So we have been to the pits. We still have a lot of work to do to be the traditional Lady Lion basketball team, but certainly (beating Iowa) lets you at least take the Band-aid off for a little bit.″
TWO-SPORT STANDOUT: Starring in track at Purdue wasn’t enough for Corissa Yasen, the NCAA heptathlon champion last year.
Now that her track career is over, Yasen is playing basketball.
The 6-foot senior from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is second in the Big Ten in steals with an average of 3.1 a game and had eight in a Dec. 5 game with Notre Dame, the second-best figure in Purdue history.
Yasen also leads the Boilermakers in blocked shots with 16 and is 10th in the league in rebounding with a 6.7 average.
As a track athlete at Purdue, Yasen was a nine-time All-American and won 10 Big Ten championships. While the high jump was her best event and the heptathlon brought her a national title, she also excelled in the javelin, pentathlon and 600-meter run.
SHADOWING ENIS: Alabama’s Tausha Mills once again is playing in Shalonda Enis’ shadow, and she doesn’t mind it a bit.
Mills was a freshman at Trinity Valley Junior College in Texas when Enis was the team’s star. Enis went on to Alabama the following season, 1995-96, and Mills became the national junior college player of the year. Then she transferred to Alabama, where once more Enis is the team’s star.
So would why would Mills want to put herself in that situation again?
``Because I learned a lot from playing with Shay,″ she said. ``I figured that with another year, maybe I’d learn even more. Besides, you can’t run from the best. This way, I get to go against her every day in practice and learn and get better.″
One thing people around the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Mills have learned is to get out of her way.
``It’s like standing in the middle of a freeway at rush hour,″ teammate Brittney Ezell said. ``You don’t want to be there. I’ve been there and I can sympathize with people who have been hit by a car.″
FLASHY FROSH: UCLA’s Maylana Martin is on pace to break the freshman scoring record in the Pac-10, a mark held by Olympic gold medalist Lisa Leslie.
Leslie averaged 19.4 points a game as a freshman at Southern Cal in the 1990-91 season. Martin went into a Friday game with USC averaging 19.5 points, which ranked fifth in the league. She has scored 20 or more points eight times this season and reached 30 points three times.
And it’s not like she’s putting the ball up every time she gets it. Martin is averaging only 12 shots a game and is shooting 55.4 percent, second in the league to Arizona’s Adia Barnes.
DOUBLE 30s: Auburn achieved a first in its recent victory over South Alabama.
Laticia Morris scored a career-high 33 points in that game and Tara Williams had 30, also a career best. It was the first time two Auburn players had scored 30 in a game.
The next time out, Williams had 27 points and Morris 24 as Auburn beat Mississippi State.
Who says the Tigers just win with defense?
STAT QUEENS: Portland not only is the early leader in the West Coast Conference race, it also is dominating the league’s statistics, mostly because of senior guard Deanna Lansing.
Lansing leads the conference in scoring (14.9), steals (4.5), 3-pointers (2.7) and 3-point shooting percentage (.478) and is second in assists (5.8). Teammate Wendy Toonen leads the conference in blocks (2.2) and Portland’s Kristin Hepton is first in free-throw percentage at .957.
Portland took a 15-1 record into a game at Pepperdine on Friday night. The Pilots, whose only loss was by 11 points at Oregon, have won 17 straight home games.
End advance for Jan. 25-26