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Lady Lions Fall 74-57 To No. 11 Michigan

Penn State women’s basketball (7-7, 1-3 Big Ten) lost 74-57 to No. 11 Michigan (14-2, 5-1 Big Ten) Thursday night in Happy Valley.

A talented Michigan offense proved to be too much for the Lady Lions, and despite a 17-point game from both Leilani Kapinus and Makenna Marisa, the Wolverines pulled away. Ali Brigham made an appearance in the game after not seeing minutes against Maryland, and the sophomore posted 11 points and eight boards in what a bright spot in the tough loss.

With the loss, the Lady Lions are no longer undefeated at home this season, as they previously held a 5-0 record at the Bryce Jordan Center.

How It Happened

Head coach Carolyn Kieger rolled out a veteran-heavy lineup to start the game. Typically a spark off the bench, Shay Hagans earned her second start in a row this week.

Michigan won the opening tipoff to get things started. Both the Wolverines and Lady Lions didn’t score on their first possessions, but the ranked squad found the basket first from distance and didn’t let up. Michigan went on a 10-0 run right out of the gate, racking up three steals and quieting the Bryce Jordan Center.

Ali Brigham entered the game in the first three minutes after not seeing the court against Maryland. The transfer was welcomed back into the lineup off the bench and resumed her powerful presence.

Leilani Kapinus was the first Nittany Lion to score on Thursday night after nearly five scoreless minutes. The true freshman sunk a three-pointer after breaking off of her Wolverine defender. Still, though, Michigan’s man-to-man defense was significantly more effective than the Lady Lions’ two-three zone.

After minimizing a 15-point lead, the Lady Lions closed out the first quarter trailing 25-14. Michigan posted a perfect three-point percentage and went five-for-five in the opening ten minutes.

Penn State looked hot out of the break with two quick baskets and a steal. Kapinus was truly something to watch and showed a new consistency and speed on the court. While Makenna Marisa usually outscores her teammates at remarkable rates, Kapinus hung with her point-for-point against Michigan.

The Wolverines maintained a solid 10-point lead on the Lady Lions throughout the second quarter. Penn State responded to Michigan on nearly every possession, but it struggled to close the Wolverines’ early established lead.

Penn State couldn’t sink its shots at the end of the quarter and headed into the locker room down 39-27. Michigan’s perfect three-point percentage diminished to 60% in the second quarter, but it was far superior to the Nittany Lions’ 17% outlook.

Kieger’s lineup was hard-pressed to find the basket after halftime. Aside from one converted free throw from Marisa, the Lady Lions didn’t add to the scoreboard for nearly five minutes. What was once a 12-point lead turned into 20 midway through the third quarter. Brigham created the first big play of the quarter by snatching an offensive rebound, converting a layup through a foul, and sinking the and-one free throw.

Brigham and Tova Sabel picked up back-to-back offensive rebounds, and the Lady Lions picked up four quick points on the Wolverine half. Shortly after, though, Penn State didn’t find the basket for four minutes and remained stuck at 35 points for much of the latter minutes of the half. Hagans finally broke the streak and sunk a buzzer-beating jumper to close out the quarter at 57-38.

The play started to get pretty choppy in the final quarter of the night. With both teams implementing a full-court press, the court looked seriously crowded, resulting in some unintentional fouls. Many minutes were spent at the foul line during the fourth quarter.

The Nittany Lion lineup tried their best to keep energy high during the seemingly never-ending fouls, but there was little play between each whistle. Penn State shot right around 56% at the foul line, which allowed it to close the once large gap on the scoreboard.

The Lady Lions closed out an impressive second half, but they couldn’t manage to catch up to the Wolverines. Michigan took the prize and finished the game on top at 74-57.

Takeaways

  • The two-three zone defense isn’t doing it against ranked opponents. Teams like Michigan with nearly perfect shooting percentages can easily pick exploit the zone. Perhaps a more frequently utilized man defense might be worth a shot if the Lady Lions want to stay competitive in the Big Ten.
  • Leilani Kapinus really showed up Thursday night. The freshman put up 17 points and added a necessary consistency to the lineup despite the loss
  • Even though the Lady Lions found themselves trailing at upwards of 20 points at times, the energy was never low in the Bryce Jordan Center. Kapinus, Hagans, and Marisa never failed to keep a high intensity and pace on the court.

What’s Next

The Lady Lions will remain in Happy Valley to host Illinois on Sunday, January 16, at the Bryce Jordan Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. and can be streamed on BTN+.

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About the Author

Keeley Lamm

Keeley is a sophomore journalism major from Richmond, Virginia, and is one of Onward State's associate editors. She also talks sports on our podcast, Podward State. Keeley is a lover of grilled cheese, naps, and Kevin Jonas. If you would like to discuss your thoughts on the superior Jonas Brother, feel free to contact her on Twitter @lammkeeley or send your best Spotify playlist to her email [email protected]

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