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Lady Lions Falter Late To Clemson In 67-64 Heartbreaker

Penn State women’s basketball (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten) fell to Clemson (2-2, 0-0 ACC) 67-64 in non-conference action on the road at Little John Coliseum Sunday afternoon.

After compiling the first ever triple-double in Lady Lion history in her last outing, Makenna Marisa picked up right where she left off with a stellar 17-point first half, helping Penn State enter the locker room with a five-point lead.

Despite Marisa’a 29-point effort, Carolyn Kieger’s high-tempo offense coughed up three straight turnovers in the final minute, costing the Lady Lions several chances of finding quality shots in crunch time. In the end, Clemson was able to finish off one extra fast-break opportunity to edge out Penn State in the closing seconds.

How It Happened

The Tigers controlled the opening tip but began the contest 0-for-5 from the field, with three attempts coming from beyond the arc. Carolyn Kieger’s squad opened in its patented 2-3 zone look, resulting in a nearly five-minute scoreless spell for Clemson to start the matchup.

Penn State also started slow, but jumped out to a 4-0 lead courtesy of a mid-range jumper from Leilani Kapinus and a fast-break layup from Anna Camden. Although the visitors found early momentum, the Tigers stormed back with an 8-3 run of their own, bringing the game to a 9-8 score in favor of the Lady Lions with 4:06 remaining in the first quarter.

Following the first timeout of the game, Penn State extended the lead to three points on a Marisa jumper, who finished the opening 10 minutes with 10 of the team’s 18 total points, extending her historic run following a triple-double outing against Delaware State.

The two sides continued to find success and trade scores on quick-hitting drives created by guard penetration. As the final seconds of the quarter winded down, Marisa received the inbound as possession changed due to a Tiger turnover. The Pennsylvania native weaved through nearly the entire Clemson defense, and drilled a buzzer-beating three-pointer, extending the Lady Lion lead to an 18-12 clip at the horn.

Clemson continued to fire from deep in a concentrated effort to break Kieger’s zone, as Kiara Lewis hit a timely three-ball to bring the game back to a one-score mark. At 18-15, Penn State then mounted a 5-0 run of its own forged by Marisa and Niya Beverley to put the Lady Lions up by eight for its largest lead of the afternoon.

During the run, the opportune Penn State defense forced four straight turnovers, which transformed into instant offense for Marisa. After an errant Tiger pass, Marisa took the next possession straight to the rack for an isolation lay in, holding Clemson to a double-digit deficit at 27-17.

In an effort to break down the zone, Clemson’s Gabby Elliot finally hit a three-pointer on the team’s tenth attempt of the game to bring the margin back to seven. Despite the effort to begin a slow comeback effort, Kieger’s fast-paced attack continued to outrun the Tiger defense by thriving on fast-break opportunities, with the latest featuring another clear-lane lay up by Kapinus.

The streaky Tigers caught fire, and three-pointers from Elliot and Delicia Washington contributed to the climb back to the even mark, as the home squad trailed 33-29 with just two minutes remaining in the first half. Marisa’s consistency never wavered, as she dictated the offense’s pace and finished the half with 17 points.

Just seconds before the half’s final buzzer, Kapinus sent an emphatic rejection on Elliot out of bounds, helping the Lady Lions hold onto a 38-33 lead heading into the locker room.

After starting the third quarter scoreless for the better part of three minutes, Anna Camden began the hot shooting affair by downing a three-point on the left wing, extending the lead to 41-34. The inside-out game began to come into fruition for Penn State, as Ali Brigham began to work on the low block. At 6’4″, the George Washington transfer backed down her defender and finished in the paint to expand the 5-0 scoring run.

Towards the midway point of the period, Clemson began to slowly carve into the Penn State lead, bringing the margin back to a 43-40 score through quick passing to dismantle the zone. Then, Beverley answered the bell for the Lady Lions and made a three-pointer right after the lead was cut to three.

The back-and-forth battle continued, but the Tigers were able to establish a 49-48 lead courtesy of a flurry of pull-up jump shots by the combination of Washington and Lewis. With its first adversity since trailing 12-11 in the first quarter, Penn State responded with two free throws from Marisa to tie the score at 52-a-piece entering the fourth.

The Tigers struck first to regain a two-point lead in the final period, but Marisa responded with a three-point play of her own to recapture the advantage. After a stint of empty possessions by both squads, Marisa grabbed a rebound off of a Clemson miss and exploded to the other end of the floor to draw a foul. The star point guard once again went 2-for-2 for the line, keeping the slim advantage in favor of the road team.

With just over five minutes remaining in the game, the cold-shooting streak ended for both teams. Anna Camden set her feet in the middle of the lane, and hit a timely jump shot for Kieger’s crew, taking Penn State’s lead to three points. Then, Clemson responded with a 5-0 run of its own, highlighted by a crafty up-and-under move by Washington to help the Tigers garner a 61-59 lead.

Clemson’s late sure continued by scoring its 20th and 21st second-chance points of the matchup courtesy of an offensive rebound against the zone. On the other end, Marisa continued her magic by winning yet another one-on-one matchup and nailing a smooth floater off the glass. The score kept the Lady Lions within striking distance at a one-point deficit.

Following a sequence of turnovers, Shay Hagans was able to split a pair of foul shots to tie the game at 63-63 with just under two minutes to play. On the other end, two turnovers forced by Marisa helped Clemson capture a two-point lead on an easy layup inside with less than 50 seconds to play.

On three consecutive possessions, the Lady Lion backcourt turned the ball over prior to creating any shot attempts, contributing to several Clemson fast breaks. The Tigers scored four points off the miscues, leading the home squad to a late 67-63 lead with 20 seconds left on the game clock.

The Lady Lions made one free throw late courtesy of Marisa to trim the margin to three but were unable to find a quality look beyond the arc to tie the game before the final buzzer sounded. At the game’s conclusion, Clemson ended up on top in a 67-64 heartbreak at the hands of the visitors.

Takeaways

  • Makenna Marisa is an early Big Ten Conference Player of the Year candidate. Through three performances, the Pittsburgh product is averaging an absurd 24.5 points per game, and serving as a facilitator for her counterparts on the floor. The junior also accounted for eight assists in the matchup, further solidifying her role as the most pivotal player in Kieger’s starting lineup.
  • Penn State’s zone defense is stingy and effective with its undersized personnel. Although the Lady Lions weren’t able to finish the job, their stout defense limited the Tigers to just 26.9% shooting beyond the arc on 26 attempts. If the front court is able to clean up its rebounding woes, Kieger’s intense zone look could prove to be an edge in conference play.
  • With several scoring opportunities late in the matchup, turnovers plagued the Lady Lions. On three of its final four offensive possessions, errant passes intended for post players resulted in Clemson shot attempts on the opposite end. It’s early in the season, but coughing up a game largely controlled by Penn State from start-to-finish could hinder the squad’s final resume come March.

What’s Next

The Lady Lions will head to Estero, Florida for the Gulf Coast Showcase spanning over Thanksgiving weekend. In opening round action, Penn State will face St. John’s at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 26. The contest will stream live on FloHoops.

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a junior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania double majoring in journalism and business. 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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