Column: Too Much Pressue on Maggie Lucas
Maggie Lucas is one of the best basketball players in Lady Lions history. She is a preseason All-American, Wade Trophy finalist, a Big Ten first teamer, and a McDonald’s All-American to boot. Lucas has never averaged less than 15 points per game, hits virtually every free throw, rebounds well for her position and is a fantastic three-point shooter. However, the Lady Lions already have four losses and the senior Lucas is having one of her worst shooting years.
Any basketball player’s senior year should be their best, just based on the law of improvement, yet Lucas cannot seem to get on track. Lucas is shooting 37.5 percent, by far her worst percentage ever. She is shooting a respectable 33 percent from three, but again this is by far her worst percentage of her career. Lucas is averaging 20.9 points per game, but it seems that the points are coming from the pure volume of shots she attempts.
The senior star is the Lady Lions best player and scorer, but all of these stats beg the question, is there too much pressure on Maggie Lucas?
Basketball is a team sport, especially in women’s basketball, where it is hard for one player to dominate the entire game. The Lady Lions do not have much depth this year and it is definitely affecting Lucas’ play.
Only three players are averaging more than 30 minutes per game, Lucas, Ariel Edwards and Dara Taylor. Barely two other players crack the 20-minute mark and other than Kaliyah Mitchell at 16 minutes, the rest of the Lady Lions average less than 15 minutes a game. Penn State head coach Coquese Washington is basically using a six-player rotation, and the Lady Lions play as a whole is suffering. Lucas has always played major minutes for Penn State, but when any player gets into foul trouble the Lady Lions will have a dilemma. Washington has to be confident enough to reach to a bench full of freshmen. It’s clear though; the youth of the Lady Lions definitely puts more pressure onto Lucas.
Lucas is one of the best shooters in college basketball, but her numbers do not reflect it this year. The Lady Lions have a problem stretching the floor. Lucas is the only player on the team that can consistently knock down three-point jump shots. While Penn State can move the ball and hope to get Lucas an open shot, opposing teams can easily key on her and play a hybrid box-and-one. With this defense, one player pressures Lucas on the three-point line, barely giving her any room.
Dara Taylor is a good player. She can get into the lane and make good passes, but again outside shooting is not her strength. Ariel Edwards is a defensive force and a good rebounder, but really can only scores around the rim.
Coach Washington should look at ways to take pressure off Lucas. For example, perhaps the Lady Lions should play with an even faster pace, running off every miss, in hopes of getting Lucas wide-open looks earlier in the shot clock. Penn State also may want to work on cutting off the ball more and moving the ball every chance they get. Lucas is a phenomenal player and can take the Lady Lions far in the NCAA Tournament but Washington must find ways to get her open looks early in the game. If Lucas can find a shooting rhythm, the Lady Lions will too hit their stride, and have the ability to make some noise.
Tim Alvarez is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Courtesy: (AP Photo/Centre Daily Times, Abby Drey)