Playing basketball for Penn State was 'blessing' for Wolff
Janessa Wolff's final year as a member of the Penn State University women's basketball team started and ended on high notes.
Wolff, a 6-foot-3 junior center from Park Rapids, helped the Nittany Lions start the season with a 15-4 record and to the No. 23 ranking in the NCAA Division I polls.
Penn State then ended the regular season with a 1-8 mark to enter the post-season with a 16-12 overall record.
The Nittany Lions opened the Big Ten Conference tournament with a win and earned an invitation to the WNIT Tournament.
All things considered, it was a successful 17-14 season for Wolff and the Nittany Lions.
"We ended the season with a winning record. That's something that hasn't happened to Lady Lion basketball in five years. Also, we won in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. Third, we got into the WNIT. This is another step for this program because we haven't been in a post-season tournament for five years," said Wolff. "These are big strides for this team and it means we are on the verge of turning this program around."
The Nittany Lions opened the season with wins over Drexel (71-61), NJIT (79-57) and Bucknell (77-62).
After a 63-56 loss to South Carolina, Penn State defeated Buffalo (86-65) and Holy Cross (52-48). No. 23-ranked Georgia Tech posted a 64-60 win and Minnesota opened the Big Ten schedule with a 56-48 victory as PSU fell to 5-3.
However, Penn State followed with a 67-42 win over Monmouth, a 77-73 win over No. 15 Pittsburgh and a 69-64 win over Oakland before defeating Iowa 77-73 in overtime in a conference game.
After a 69-60 loss to Illinois, Penn State improved to 7-2 in conference play with victories over Northwestern (88-68), Indiana (77-71 in overtime), Iowa (68-62), No. 20 Michigan State (68-60), Wisconsin (54-43) and Illinois (70-66).
The Nittany Lions then struggled in the second half of the conference schedule by losing to No. 23 Purdue (80-76 in overtime), Michigan (66-62), Michigan State (65-44), No. 8 Ohio State (86-73), Minnesota (59-52) and Purdue (63-59).
Penn State ended that six-game skid with a 71-65 overtime win over Michigan before ending the regular season with losses to Wisconsin (71-39) and Indiana (77-68).
In the Big Ten Conference tournament, the Nittany Lions were the No. 6 seed and eliminated No. 11 Minnesota 63-52 before being ousted with an 82-74 loss to No. 3 Iowa. Penn State then had its season end with a 76-68 loss to Hofstra in the first round of the WNIT Tournament.
"This season was a tough one for the team and myself. We started out really strong with a great record. Then midway through conference play we started to fall. We just couldn't seem to find a way to get ourselves out of the hole we had dug," said Wolff. "We were a very talented team. The keys to starting off well was the pure talent of our team. We were strong in every position and had very versatile scoring. We were running teams constantly. Our team played the best when we ran and didn't have to set up an offense. I think midway through conference we started getting tired. Our defense let up, which stopped our running game and we just couldn't find other ways to score. It definitely was not how I imagined the season would finish."
Wolff had another solid season as a reserve center for the Nittany Lions, who finished with an 8-10 record in the conference and 17-14 overall mark.
Wolff hit double figures in points twice, scoring 14 points in 28 minutes against Drexel and hitting 10 points in 18 minutes in the overtime win against Iowa. Wolff led the team in rebounding three times with nine rebounds in the win over Wisconsin and eight boards against Georgia Tech and Iowa. Wolff also had a team-leading three blocked shots against Georgia Tech.
In 31 games, Wolff finished seventh on the team in scoring at 4.3 points a game and was fifth in rebounding at 3.8 per game. Wolff split minutes with freshman center Nikki Greene, who averaged 7.0 points and 6.2 rebounds a game.
Wolff shot 44.8 percent (43 for 96) from the field and 77.4 percent (48 for 62) at the free throw line. Wolff scored 134 points, grabbed 118 rebounds and had 15 blocked shots, 14 steals and 10 assists while averaging 16 minutes a game.
"No one will ever say they are satisfied with their minutes unless they are playing all of them," said Wolff. "For the most part I was happy. Nikki is a great player and we tag-teamed minutes most of the games. If Nikki was playing well, I didn't play as much and vice versa. I had hopes of playing more a power forward position, but with the other posts on the team it just didn't work out."
As a sophomore, Wolff averaged 6.8 points and 5.6 rebounds a game as Penn State went 6-12 in the conference and 11-18 overall. Wolff made 72 of 156 field goals (46.2 percent) and 45 of 70 free throws (64.3 percent). In 28 games, Wolff had 190 points, 158 rebounds, 16 assists and 29 steals while leading the team with 33 blocks.
As a freshman, Wolff made 71 of 132 field goals (53.8 percent) and 49 of 67 free throws (73.1 percent) while tallying 191 points, 140 rebounds, 19 blocks, 12 assists and 12 steals in 31 games. Penn State went 4-14 in conference play and 13-18 overall during Wolff's freshman season.
Wolff won't be returning to the team next season. She'll be student teaching in the fall and will graduate in December. Wolff concludes her Division I college career with 515 career points, 416 career rebounds and Academic All-Big Ten honors in three seasons.
"Playing basketball at Penn State has been a blessing," said Wolff. "I wouldn't change my experience for anything."