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Lady Lions Fall To No. 22 Northwestern 67-50

Penn State women’s basketball (4-6, 1-5 Big Ten) lost to No. 22 Northwestern (7-2, 5-2 Big Ten) 67-50 Sunday afternoon at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Johnasia Cash led the way in scoring for Penn State with 14 points on 4-for-10 shooting. The senior center added eight rebounds, but her performance was not enough to overcome the team’s pedestrian 37% shooting from the floor.

How It Happened

Turnovers plagued both teams early, as the two squads began a combed 2-for-7 from the field in the opening 3:53 of play. Four minutes into the first quarter, Anna Camden nailed two free throws to give the Lady Lions a 4-3 advantage.

The Wildcats snapped a scoreless streak of more than four minutes with a deep three-pointer from the right win to regain a two-point lead. Following a media timeout midway through the opening quarter, Makenna Marisa converted a timely corner three-pointer to jumpstart the Lady Lion offense.

In an effort of desperation, Northwestern guard Jordan Hamilton made a 35-footer on the next possession as the shot clock expired. The Hamilton heave sparked a 5-0 Northwestern run, leading to an instant Carolyn Kieger timeout. Following the break, Maddie Burke added an additional three for the home team to stop the bleeding, cutting the Wildcats’ advantage to a 12-10 score.

Careless turnovers defined the first 10 minutes of play, as both teams combined for an abysmal 15 possession changes. With eight turnovers, Northwestern concluded the period just two shy of its season average of 10 per game. Although Penn State’s stingy defense caught Northwestern off guard, the visitors held a 14-10 lead entering the second quarter.

The Wildcats did not skip a beat to begin the second quarter as its backcourt orchestrated a beautiful opening set that led to a corner mid-range jumper to extend the margin to six.

Despite facing adversity, the Lions continued to get it done on defense. A Niya Beverly forced turnover led to a quick Makenna Marisa layup to cut the deficit to four points.

Two straight three-point play opportunities kindled an abrupt run by the Wildcats, leading to a 21-12 lead. Needing an answer, Shay Hagans energized the Lady Lion backcourt by attack the rack. The sophomore guard went 4-for-6 from the stripe in a 45-second span, cutting the deficit to two possessions.

A late 10-0 charge in favor of the Wildcats extended the lead to 14 points over the home team. Northwestern guard Lindsey Pulliam made two huge routine jump shots to begin the hot-shooting stretch. Both teams entered the locker room with the score sitting at a 32-18 Wildcat advantage.

Both teams began the second half cold from the field but began to trade conversions nearly two minutes into the third quarter. Marisa made a beautiful one-legged fade-away to catapult the scoring for the Lady Lions but failed to convert the free throw for the three-point play.

Big Ten steals per game leader Veronica Burton created two crucial turnovers at the hands of the Lady Lions to create instant offense for Northwestern. Two transition layups for the Wildcats extended the lead to a 43-22 advantage for the visitors, the largest of the game, with six minutes to go in the third quarter.

Both teams continued to trade scores for the latter half of the quarter. In the final two minutes of play, Cash’s effort on the defensive end propelled the Lady Lions to an 8-2 run. Marisa and Burke added three-pointers to bring the deficit back to a manageable margin.

The Lady Lions entered the fourth quarter down 52-37 with 10 minutes to play. Although Penn State lost the quarter on the stat sheet, key hustle plays provided the home team with much-needed momentum to potentially spark a comeback.

Penn State continued to score on the Wildcats, but Northwestern kept answering the call with each Lady Lion conversion. With six minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Cash finished a three-point-play on the low-post to keep the margin at 15-points. Despite the glimmer of hope, the opportunistic Wildcat offensive attack had a three-point-play opportunity of its own on the following possession.

For the remainder of the quarter, the teams continued to trade scores. Despite an improved half of shooting from Penn State, the Lady Lions were never able to cut the lead inside of 13. Kieger’s squad continued to fight until the final buzzer but ultimately fell 67-50.

Takeaways

  • Poor shooting plagued the Lady Lions throughout the contest. The team collectively shot 37% from the field compared to a 46% output from the visiting Wildcats. Additionally, Penn State finished with just 11 assists in comparison to 27 total turnovers.
  • Penn State fought hard against an overmatched, ranked Northwestern squad, but once again was plagued by large runs in favor of the opposition. The Wildcats went on a massive 20-4 running, spanning from late in the second quarter to the midway point in the third, to control the game until the final buzzer.
  • Despite solid individual efforts from Marisa and Cash for the Lady Lions, Kieger’s squad sorely missed the leadership of Kelly Jekot against the Wildcats. The Villanova transfer missed Sunday’s matchup for an undisclosed non-coronavirus related injury.
  • In order to remain competitive in Big Ten play, Shay Hagans must step on the gas for Penn State. Prior to Sunday’s contest, Hagans scored a total of 39 points in four wins for the Lady Lions this season, but she’s scored 12 total points in the five previous losses.

What’s Next?

The Lady Lions will travel to Rutgers on Thursday, January 21. Tipoff from the Piscataway is set for 7 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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