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Lady Lions Cruise Past St. Francis In 87-54 Victory

Penn State women’s basketball (2-0) defeated St. Francis 87-54 in the team’s second out-of-conference matchup of the season Monday night.

Carolyn Kieger’s energized squad rode the hot-hand of graduate transfer Kelly Jekot, who finished the contest in double-double fashion with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

After holding a one-point lead at the 6:12 mark in the second quarter, the Lady Lions finished the half on a 13-0 run and never looked back. Penn State’s athletic backcourt provided too much fire power for the Red Flash, leading to a dominant 20-5 fast-break advantage in favor of the Lions.

How It Happened

Johnaisa Cash scored the first points of the game after capitalizing on a put-back early in the first quarter. The Lady Lions’ fast-paced attack was then plagued by turnovers, with four in the team’s first eight posessions. After starting the game two-for-seven from the field as a team, sophomore guard Shay Hagans electrified the Lions’ scoring attack by scoring two straight buckets to take a an 8-6 lead. 

Following a timeout at the four-minute mark in the first, veteran guard Kelly Jekot took control of the offense by scoring six points in a two-minute span. Unfazed, the Red Flash scoring attack continued to thrive behind 3-for-3 shooting from Kelly Swogger in the first quarter.

The Lady Lions continued to push the pace and converted on a beautifully executed secondary break capped off by a Tova Sabel layup. Jekot finished the quarter by exposing her defender with an euro-step finish, leading to an 18-16 advantage in favor of the Lady Lions.

To begin the second quarter, freshman Constance Thomas converted a gliding floater in the middle of the lane to increase the lead to four. The Lady Lions buckled down defensively, holding the Red Flash scoreless until the 7:03 mark in the quarter.

Carolyn Kieger called a timeout following quick 6-0 run on two three-pointers from the Red Flash, brining the score to 23-22 in favor of the Lions. Behind the combo of Cash and Makenna Marisa, Kieger’s squad jolted to an 8-0 run its own, forcing St. Francis to call a timeout with just over two minutes left in the half.

The Lady Lions continued to step on the gas, finishing the half on a 13-0 run after Kieger’s timeout at the 6:12 mark in the quarter. Turnovers from the Red Flash turned into instant offense for Haggans, who finished the quarter with six points in transition. The run resulted in a 36-22 lead at the half for the Lady Lions, behind a 4-for-7 shooting effort for 13 points from Jekot.

Immediately after the break, a slashing Jekot scored the Lions’ first points of the half assisted by Makenna Marisa. The stingy Lady Lion defense continued to produce turnovers at a rapid rate, leading to more success in transition behind the one-two punch of Marisa and Jekot.

In the half-court, Johnasia Cash continued to expose her undersized defender with an array of WNBA-esque post moves, finishing the quarter with four points on the low block. The front court combination of Cash and Anna Camden helped the Lions dominate the offensive glass, with a 9-2 rebounding advantage on the opposing side of the floor. A 22-point third quarter helped Penn State extend its lead to 58-41 entering the final period of play. 

An immediate Camden steal led to another layup by Cash on the low post. The score sparked an outburst of fourth-quarter points from the Lady Lions, led by a quarter-leading five points from Jekot. The freshman duo of Maddie Burke and Tova Sabel made their mark late off the bench, after each scoring a bucket in the final minutes of play.

In a heartwarming moment, West Virginia transfer Nia Staples entered the game for the Lady Lions in her first action of the year after missing all of last season with an injury. Staples instantly made her mark, converting on a layup at the 3:40 mark in the fourth quarter, resulting in an eruption from the Lady Lion bench. Her spark helped further extend the lead, as Penn State finished the game on an 11-4 run to win 85-54.

Takeaways

  • After a difficult year of transition for Carolyn Kieger, the second-year coach now has a roster that fits her desired style of play. Kieger’s implementation of “position-less basketball” helps her talented guards score quickly in transition and find quality looks from behind the arc in half-court sets.
  • The addition of Shay Hagans into the starting lineup in favor of Nyam Thorton strengthens the Lions’ run-and-gun identity in the full court. Carolyn Kieger’s squad is at its best when the guards are able to push the pace in transition, which is exactly what Hagans did against the Red Flash, finishing with 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting.
  • Constance Thomas’ vision is elite. In the second quarter alone, Thomas had four assists In limited action. The former highly-touted Florida product provides another dimension to Penn State’s loaded backcourt.
  • Kelly Jekot is the leader Kieger’s squad lacked in her first season as head coach. In just two games for the Lions, Jekot has recorded two double-double performances, the same amount during her three seasons at Villanova. Her high basketball IQ will help the young Lady Lions weather the storm in the Big Ten this season.

What’s Next

The Lady Lions will take on Rhode Island for the first time in program history on Thursday, December 3. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a freshman from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania majoring in journalism. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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