Lack Of Full-Game Consistency Plagues Lady Lions Following Hot Streak
Entering Thursday afternoon’s matchup against No. 15 Indiana, the once red-hot Lady Lions traveled to Bloomington with high expectations of claiming a season-defining victory.
Through the first half of play, Penn State held a slim one-point advantage over the talented Hoosiers in a well-executed stretch on both sides of the floor. Despite the strong start, the Lady Lions’ potential upset bid came to a crashing halt due to a dismal third quarter.
The Hoosiers began the period on an explosive 12-0 run sparked by a flurry of turnovers committed on several forced Lady Lion possessions that led to a 26-11 quarter-long deficit. Although the contest marked Penn State’s first defeat after holding a halftime lead, several lackluster periods over the course of the season have hindered an otherwise successful, much-improved campaign.
In eight of Penn State’s nine losses, the Lady Lions have had at least one quarter where they were outscored by eight or more points. Conversely, despite the team’s 8-9 overall record, the squad has won or tied the opposition in at least one quarter in all of its losses.
Needing a bounce-back victory in Saturday’s matchup with Michigan State, the Lady Lions once again began the contest in lackluster fashion, continuing the season-long theme of inconsistency. In the first two quarters of play, the Spartans outscored the Lady Lions 46-28 after surrendering an opening 11-2 run.
“We have to figure out how to play four quarters,” head coach Carolyn Kieger said after the loss. “The last two games, we’ve been up and down, and that goes along with youth and leadership.”
To the squad’s credit, the Lady Lions’ never-quit attitude was on full display in the final 20 minutes of Saturday’s contest. In the second half, Penn State outscored Michigan State 39-30 behind eight hard-earned points from Johnasia Cash.
“I’m pleased with our fight in the second half, but obviously, we can’t start out that flat with a lack of energy and lack of passion,” Kieger said. “You end up losing that game by 13, and you possibly couldn’t have played a worse first half, which is encouraging. But at the same time, it’s got to click at some point, where we can put four [quarters] together and get an upset.”
Despite the Lady Lions’ recent stumble, the team has no shortage of opportunities to right the ship. Kieger’s squad has Iowa and Nebraska slated as the next two opponents on the schedule, which combine for a 14-14 conference record. With two wins, Penn State would improve to a 10-9 clip on the season, including a 7-8 mark in the conference. Through 15 Big Ten games a season ago, the Lady Lions boasted a ghastly 1-14 record.
“We’re getting there. We’re not where we need to be yet, but we’re taking baby steps,” Kieger said. “We’ve beat the teams under us in the league, and now we have to beat the teams that are ahead of us in the standings. We have a lot of chances coming up in the next couple of weeks.”
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