STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP)—Coquese Washington used to call Joe Paterno her big brother on campus.
The Penn State women’s coach said the the Hall-of-Fame football coach took care of her from the moment she stepped onto the State College campus nearly five years ago.
“It’s wasn’t like we had Sunday dinner every week,” Washington said. “But the times that we spent together he was always giving me some advice and inspiration.”
With the Penn State community mourning Paterno’s death on Sunday, the No. 22 Lady Lions played with heavy hearts—and it showed.
Alex Bentley scored 21 points and Penn State beat Iowa 68-52 only hours after the longtime Nittany Lions football coach died of cancer at 85.
“I know he probably would have been ticked off if we lost,” said Washington, who had a black ribbon pinned to her sweater. “We just wanted to play our best today, give our best effort in honor of a man who always gave his best to Penn State.”
There was a pregame moment of silence for Paterno, the winningest coach in college football. The Lady Lions also sported black bands on their uniforms as a tribute.
But the best tribute? A comeback win featuring stout, late-game defense.
Down 48-50 with 6:32 remaining, Penn State (15-4, 5-2 Big Ten) rallied with a 20-2 run to close the game.
“That was just a great six minutes to finish this game by Penn State,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “We kind of self-destructed in that time and they took every advantage of it.”
Kamille Whalin led Iowa (11-9, 3-4) with a season-high 21 points. The Hawkeyes committed 15 turnovers and were outrebounded 53-34 to lose their third in four games.
Iowa leading scorer Jaime Printy added 13 points but she shot 4 of 20 from the field, including 1 of 10 from 3-point range.
Penn State, which improved to 14-5 against Iowa in Happy Valley, won despite a poor shooting performance. The Lions went 24 of 71 (34 percent) from the floor and 1 of 7 from long range.
“When we get great shots, we make a lot of them,” Washington said. “We just need to have the discipline and the fortitude to take great shots.”
They didn’t in the first half.
The Lady Lions, who entered Sunday ranked 15th in the country in field goal percentage, started off sluggish. They shot 12 of 37 in the first half and trailed 32-31 at the break.
Ariel Edwards added 17 points and 11 rebounds—her first career double-double—for Penn State. Edwards, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, started for the first time since Dec. 21. Edwards got the nod over junior Mia Nickson, who Washington said “tweaked a muscle.”
The Lady Lions, who were preseason favorites to win the Big Ten, stumbled to begin the conference slate with back-to-back home losses. But Penn State has won four straight overall, including conference wins over Michigan and Iowa.
Washington said she will enjoy the victory—for both her and her friend Joe Paterno.
“He was just a fantastic man and meant so much to this community,” Washington said. “And we’ll miss him. We’ll miss him.”
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