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posted: 11/15/2013 7:32 PM

This Lyon ready to roar for Wildcats

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  • Northwestern's Maggie Lyon was honored as the Big Ten freshman of the year last season.

    Northwestern's Maggie Lyon was honored as the Big Ten freshman of the year last season.
    Associated Press


While walking from one class to another one day last winter, Maggie Lyon was checking her phone for messages.

That's how the Northwestern star guard found out that she was named the Big Ten's freshman of the year.

"Our media relations girl sent me a text about it," said the 6-foot-1 Lyon, now a sophomore. "I was walking alone so I didn't have anyone to share it with. It was OK. I called my Mom later."

That understated moment seems to be Lyon in a nutshell.

She might put big numbers on the board, she might make big plays, but she'd prefer that everyone not make a big deal about it.

Ask her about herself and what she's going to do for an encore this season, and Lyon starts talking about her team, a team she wants to help win a Big Ten championship before she leaves Evanston.

It will be a tall order for the green Wildcats, who haven't won a league title in nearly 25 years and are starting three freshmen, a sophomore in Lyon and a junior.

"Our freshmen are learning and they have great attitudes, which is really important," said Lyon, who played her high school ball at New Trier. "And everyone on the team tries to help them.

"I know I try to look out for them. I remember it was difficult for me last year."

We'll have to take Lyon at her word on that, because, from the outside looking in, it seemed that she made an amazingly smooth transition from high school to college basketball.

Lyon averaged 37 minutes per game last season and led all Big Ten freshmen in points (12.6 ppg), 3-pointers and steals. She scored in double-figures in 20 of 25 games.

"I think one thing that helped me is that my coaches let me play through my mistakes," Lyon said. "If you're afraid to get pulled for one little mistake, you play tight and you end up making more mistakes.

"The one thing that was really tough for me was the strength of the players in college. That's so much different than high school. The way we prepare for games is also a lot different. It's so much more intense than AAU and high school basketball. It took some getting used to. You have to be focused 110 percent of the time because the expectations are so much higher."

Lyon knows that people will be expecting more of her this season. She's expecting more, too, but she won't need a stat sheet to tell her whether or not she's hitting the mark.

"It really doesn't matter how many points I get or anything like that," Lyon said. "If we're winning and we're having fun, then I'll know I'm helping my team and doing my job."

Maggie No. 2:

Another Maggie for Big Ten fans to keep an eye on this season is Penn State senior guard Maggie Lucas.

Lucas was named the Big Ten Player of the Year last season and could be a contender for national player of the year honors this year. She's also hoping to push Penn State into the conversation of national title contenders.

The Lady Lions will be getting out the measuring stick for a couple of primetime games coming up against perennial powerhouses Connecticut and Notre Dame.

Penn State, ranked No. 13 in the latest Associated Press poll, hosts No. 1 Connecticut at noon Sunday on the Big Ten Network. BTN will also carry Penn State's Dec. 4 showdown against visiting Notre Dame, ranked sixth in the country.

Like Northwestern's Maggie Lyon, Lucas also won Big Ten freshman of the year honors. She averaged 15.8 points per game that season and was up to 20.1 points per game. She is averaging 28 points through Penn State's first two games this season.

•Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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