Greene, Nittany Lions scripting storybook season
One of the tallest players on No. 7 Penn State’s roster is one
of the most soft-spoken members of the team.
Six-foot-4 center Nikki Greene has taken her aggression out in
the paint, scrambling for rebounds and maneuvering down low in the
She’s been the perfect complement for prolific shooting guard
Maggie Lucas and playmaker Alex Bentley during the Lady Lions’ best
stretch of basketball during a season in which they have their best
record in nearly two decades.
”When she’s playing the way she is, you have to account for
her,” coach Coquese Washington said before practice Wednesday.
”It just gives us more weapons when she’s playing that way, and
gives everybody else a lot of confidence.”
Penn State (17-2, 7-0) has its best record since going 22-2 to
start the 1993-94 season. Winners of 11 straight, the Lady Lions
have also won a school-record 14 Big Ten straight games dating back
to last season.
Opposing defenses are well aware of Lucas and Bentley, two of
the best players in the country.
Now, Greene gives foes yet another blue-and-white headache just
in time for conference play. The senior has had six straight games
of double-digit rebounds, and an already potent offense gets a lift
when she’s scoring inside.
The quandary: How much attention do defenses pay to Greene at
the risk of not double-teaming Lucas (20.0 points), or losing track
of Bentley (13.1 points) and her mid-range jumper? Wisconsin (9-11,
1-6) gets that predicament on Thursday night in Madison.
”If she’s clogging up the paint, she’s going to get a double
team, and with an inside-out game, it works great with all our
shooters,” said junior Dara Taylor, the third member of Penn
State’s powerful three-guard lineup.
But it’s on defense where the Lady Lions have especially left
their mark this year.
Penn State steamrolled over most of the nonconference schedule,
with Lucas, Bentley and Taylor spearheading the team’s suffocating
defensive play from the backcourt.
Having shot-blocking threats in Greene and 6-foot-5 backup
center Tori Waldner doesn’t hurt, either.
”It allows us to be more aggressive on the ball and put more
pressure on passing lanes because we know that (Greene) is going to
be in there cleaning up for us,” Taylor said.
Just don’t expect Greene to be very vocal. She doesn’t
necessarily need to be either with verbose personalities like
Lucas, Bentley and Mia Nickson.
But Greene has been more assertive.
”Nikki is a kid where the more comfortable she is, the more
aggressive she can be,” Washington said. ”It’s all coming
together for her, and she’s really confident and aggressive on the
That’s never been a problem for Lucas. The long-range shooting
threat has constantly had to make adjustments over her career as
defenses, especially in the Big Ten, get more physical and to try
to throw her off rhythm.
Midway through conference play, Lucas said she’s trying to get
more aggressive to get open on the wing, running plays as if she’s
Then again, she’s seen this defensive chess match before.
”It just gets amplified a little bit each year,” she said.
”I’m almost in a comfort zone right now.”
Just like rest of the streaking Lady Lions.
”It’s cool. I’m happy for the girls that they they’ve had that
experience,” Washington said of the lengthy winning streak. ”But
it doesn’t look like it’s that important because there’s so much
Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP