Wolff enjoys 'steady' season at Penn State
Even though the team didn't meet its goals, Janessa Wolff was pleased with her play during her sophomore season as a member of the Penn State University women's basketball team.
Wolff, a 6-foot-3 center who graduated from Park Rapids Area High School in 2007, was fifth on the team in scoring at 6.8 points per game and was second in rebounding at 5.6 per game in 28 appearances, including six as a starter. The Nittany Lions finished with a 6-12 record in Big Ten Conference games and an11-18 overall.
"The season didn't turn out the way I thought it would or anybody on the team thought it would," said Wolff, who averaged 6.2 points and 4.5 rebounds a game last season. "Individually I felt like I had a pretty steady season. I think that's what a year of experience has done for me. I have been more of a consistent player, especially on defense."
PSU went 5-6 during the nonconference schedule, losing to five ranked teams.
The Nittany Lions opened the season with a 56-42 win over South Carolina on Nov. 16. Wolff finished with eight points and shared the team lead with five rebounds.
In a 97-58 win over Stony Brook on Nov. 19, Wolff had 10 points and followed with seven points and a team-high 10 rebounds in an 80-49 win over Prairie View A&M on Nov. 21.
No. 14-rated Pittsburgh defeated PSU 80-59 on Nov. 24 as Wolff had eight points and six rebounds. Texas A&M, which ended the season rated No. 10 in the nation, edged the Nittany Lions 61-57 on Nov. 28. Wolff had three points and six rebounds in that game.
Wolff had her only double-double of the season on Nov. 29 in a 76-61 win over Coppin State. Wolff had 15 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots in that win.
In a 73-60 loss to No. 13 Florida State on Dec. 3, Wolff led the team with six rebounds while scoring five points and blocking three shots.
Wolff scored a team-high 17 points and had five rebounds in Penn State's 67-66 loss to Dayton on Dec. 6 and followed with team highs of six rebounds and six blocks in an 81-44 win over Bucknell on Dec. 9. Wolff also scored nine points in that win.
Penn State closed out the nonconference schedule with a 77-63 loss to No. 1 Connecticut on Dec. 14. Wolff had two points and seven rebounds in that game.
"We played five ranked teams in nonconference games and even though we didn't win any of them, we played them very tight," said Wolff. "One highlight of the season was playing UConn at Madison Square Garden. We played them very well and it was an experience I'll never forget."
The Nittany Lions then went 6-12 in the conference to finish in eighth place.
Wolff had seven points and five rebounds in a 67-60 loss to Michigan State on Dec. 21 and hit two jump shots and had a steal down the stretch to lift PSU to a 54-51 win over Illinois on Dec. 28. Wolff finished with 10 points and nine rebounds in that victory.
Against Minnesota on Jan. 1, Wolff had six points and a team-leading eight rebounds in a 69-55 loss. Wolff's seven rebounds helped PSU defeat Michigan 76-58 on Dec. 4.
Three losses followed as Penn State was defeated by Indiana 84-77 on Jan. 11, Purdue 59-48 on Jan. 15 and Michigan State 70-59 on Jan. 18. Wolff had four points and four rebounds against Indiana, nine points and a team-high six rebounds against Purdue and seven points and three rebounds against Michigan State.
Penn State defeated Wisconsin 58-56 in overtime on Jan. 22 as Wolff had six points and seven rebounds.
Another three-game losing streak followed as the Nittany Lions lost to Indiana (65-55) on Jan. 29, Iowa (97-89 in three overtimes) on Feb. 1 and Minnesota (63-61) on Feb. 5. Wolff played well in all three games, tallying six points and eight rebounds against Indiana, eight points and a team-high 11 rebounds against Iowa, and 11 points and five rebounds against Minnesota.
Wolff's eight points and seven rebounds helped Penn State defeat Michigan 64-56 on Feb. 9. That victory was followed by another three-game slide as the Nittany Lions lost to Wisconsin 58-52 on Feb. 12, Iowa 63-57 on Feb. 15 and Purdue 69-51 on Feb. 19. Penn State held a 45-26 lead in the second half before Iowa rallied for the win. Wolff missed the Purdue game to attend a funeral.
Penn State played well down the stretch with a 67-56 win over Illinois on Feb. 22, a 65-50 win over Northwestern on Feb. 26 and a 74-63 loss to No. 9-ranked Ohio State on March 1. Wolff had 15 points and five rebounds against Illinois.
In the Big Ten Conference tournament, Penn State was eliminated with a 58-49 loss to No. 9 seeded Illinois on March 5. Wolff had four points and two rebounds in that tournament game.
"The conference season didn't go quite as we expected. We ended up losing a lot of close games that could have changed our ranking a lot in the tournament," said Wolff. "There were a couple of low points during the season. All the losses within a couple points were probably the hardest. Both losses to Iowa were very tough. The first one, losing in three overtimes, was a heartbreaker. Then the second time we played them we lost a 20-point lead. It was basically all the close losses that were the hardest."
For the season, 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.
Last season, 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.
Looking ahead to next season, Penn State has to replace two of its top players in guards Brianne O'Rourke (10.5 points per game) and Mashea Williams (9.1 points per game). However, the Nittany Lions will have a solid nucleus to build around with the return of guard Tyra Grant (19.6 points per game), forward Julia Trogele (7.6 points per game) and Wolff.
"With another year under my belt, I hope to be more consistent on offense as well as keep up my performance on defense," said Wolff. "Next season is going to be great. We have a very good recruiting class coming in and it will also be another year with the coaching staff. We have a lot of work to do in the off-season and summer, but it is very do-able. We are a very talented team and once we put all the pieces together, we are going to be a team nobody wants to play."