Coquese Washington named Big Ten Coach of the Year

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- After leading the Lady Lions to their first Big Ten regular-season title since 2004, Coquese Washington was selected as the Big Ten Coach of the Year by both the coaches and media. Junior guard Alex Bentley (Indianapolis, Ind.) and sophomore guard Maggie Lucas (Narberth, Pa.) were both named to the All-Big Ten first team by the coaches and media after stellar seasons. The Lady Lions have 26 All-Big Ten first team selections, the most of any team in the Big Ten since joining the conference in 1992-93.

All five starters earned postseason accolades as junior center Nikki Greene (Diboll, Texas) earned third team All-Big Ten honors from the media and an honorable mention nod from the coaches. Additionally, senior guard Zhaque Gray (Chicago, Ill.) and junior forward Mia Nickson (Ashburn, Va.) were named Honorable Mention All-Big Ten. Bentley was also named to the Big Ten All-Defensive team.

Washington joins four-time winner Rene Portland (1994, 2000, 2003, 2004) on the list of Penn State mentors to win top conference coaching honors. The Lady Lions started conference play 1-2, but rallied to win 12 of their next 13 games to claim the regular-season crown. Penn State's 13 Big Ten wins are the most since the 2004-05 campaign and PSU's 10 road wins this year are the most for the Lady Lions since 1993-94. Penn State has been ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 all season and is currently ranked ninth, the highest ranking since the 2003-04 campaign.

The Lady Lions have increased their Big Ten win total in each of Washington's five seasons in Happy Valley. The Lady Lions led all teams in scoring (74.8 ppg) for the first time since the 2002-03 squad averaged 74.6 points in 16 conference games. Penn State also won the Big Ten title for rebounding margin (+6.1) for the first time since 1998-99 (+5.1).

A first team choice last season, Bentley becomes the ninth different Lady Lion to earn first team accolades twice. It is Bentley's first All-Defensive team selection. She is the second Lady Lion to earn All-Defensive team accolades, joining Greene (2010-11). Bentley paced Big Ten action with 49 steals in 16 games. She is the first Lady Lion to lead the league in steals since Jess Strom did it in back-to-back years in 2003-04 and 2004-05. Overall, Bentley is 13th in the conference in scoring (14.0), third in assists (4.8) and seventh in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4).

On all three watch lists for National Player of the Year, Bentley became the 33rd player and 15th junior in school history to score 1,000 career points against Virginia Tech. She is 21st on PSU's career scoring chart with 1,262 career points. Bentley is also the 11th player in Penn State history with 400 assists and sits in 10th on the program's all-time list with 434 helpers. With three thefts in the regular-season finale against Minnesota, Bentley became the 13th player in school history to nab 200 steals.

Lucas makes the jump to first team after collecting second team honors as a freshman. She is the 12th different Penn State player to earn first team All-Big Ten recognition. One of the top sharp-shooters in the country, Lucas has expanded her game, scoring 82 more points (541-459) despite making 29 less three-pointers than a year ago (69-98). Additionally, she has surpassed her season totals from a year ago in rebounds and assists. The Feb. 21 Big Ten Player of the Week, Lucas has 15 game with 20 or more points this season and is third in the Big Ten in scoring (19.3). She is also Top 10 in the league in free throw percentage (.878 - 4th), three-point field goal percentage (.423 - 3rd) and three-pointers made (2.5 - 2nd).

The Narberth, Pa. native became the third sophomore in school history (Kelly Mazzante and Susan Robinson) and 34th player overall to reach 1,000 points with a three-pointer in the second half at Minnesota on Feb. 5. Lucas reached the milestone in just 58 games, which is 11th-fastest in Big Ten history. She resides fourth on Penn State's career three-pointers list (181) in just two seasons and occupies two spots in the Top 10 on PSU's single-season three-pointers chart. Additionally, Lucas has already moved up to 30th on the program's career scoring list (1,093).

Greene collects All-Big Ten honors for the second time after an honorable mention appearance a year ago. A force in the paint for the Lady Lions, Greene accounts for 10.0 points per game, which is 28th in the conference. She also ranks third in the league in rebounding at an 8.2 per game clip and is fifth in blocks (1.4). Greene is also third in the Big Ten in field goal percentage, making 49.3% of her shots. Greene became the 27th member of Penn State's 500-rebound club earlier this season and is currently 15th on the school's all-time chart with 693 caroms. She is also sixth in school history in blocks with 169 rejections.

Gray claims All-Big Ten accolades for the first time in her career after averaging 10.4 points per game this year. She is also Penn State's representative for the Sportsmanship Award. Gray is 13th in the Big Ten in three-point field goal percentage (.349) and ranks seventh on Penn State's career three-pointers chart (138). Gray has set personal marks in rebounds (83) and steals (24) this year. She was named to the Lady Lion Classic All-Tournament team after averaging 11.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in two games.

Nickson earns all-conference laurels for the first time in her career after battling injuries to average 7.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Despite missing or being limited in 12 games this year, Nickson has managed to post three double-doubles, including 18 points and 15 rebounds in the win over Ohio State to clinch the Big Ten title. In conference play, Nickson is in the eighth in rebounding (7.5), 10th in field goal percentage (.455) and led the league in offensive rebounds (3.3).

The Lady Lions head to Indianapolis for the 2012 Big Ten Tournament. Penn State is the #1 seed and will face the winner of the #8 Minnesota vs. #9 Wisconsin game at 6 p.m. Friday. The Lady Lions are the top seed for the first time since 2004. Penn State is 23-15 all-time in the Big Ten Tournament with tourney championships in 1995 and 1996.

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Last Updated March 02, 2012