Lady Lions Excited For Future With Ashley Owusu Debut
It was 289 days since Ashley Owusu left Virginia Tech’s bench in its NCAA Tournament Final Four game against LSU. It was 322 days since she last played for the Hokies in the waning days of February. But Monday night, Owusu returned to a basketball court wearing blue and white, leading Penn State to a historic victory over Rutgers.
Owusu, at her third school as one of the college basketball’s most known stars, didn’t disappoint in her long-awaited debut as a Lady Lion. Against Rutgers, she was good for 18 points, five assists, and five rebounds.
Owusu played some pretty basketball, too. A sneaky pass to Shay Ciezki under the basket kicked off her time at Penn State before she drained a three-point shot soon after. Her 58.3% shooting percentage on 12 shots impressed following that. Her impact may be exactly why Penn State wanted the controversial star so badly and why head coach Carolyn Kieger and the Lady Lions have been anxious for her return to the court.
“Ashley provides, first and foremost, another point guard mentality on the team… I think she gives our team a calming presence if that makes sense,” Kieger said. “There’s many a reason or many different things that she brings to us, but I would say the biggest one for me, would be experience winning and that calm, collected presence.”
Despite missing several months of basketball due to what Kieger called a medical issue, Owusu took her first game in stride. She played for 25 minutes — more than every player other than Tay Valladay and Alli Campbell.
It’s been a slog to get Owusu back on the court. Kieger frequently hinted at her return but was vague about her availability or timeline. Penn State played 15 games without who could be its best player, and it only has 13 games left.
Despite the wait for Owusu to take the court again, it may have been worth it for the Lady Lions — Owusu’s coming in at the right time. Penn State’s still in the beginning of its Big Ten schedule and fighting for seeding in a difficult conference.
At the same time, Owusu, a former Maryland guard, is easing into the season as smoothly as possible. She began her time with Penn State against the worst-ranked team in the Big Ten and will next face the third-worst team in the conference, Purdue.
“The Big Ten, as we all know, every night is a gauntlet right?” Kieger said Tuesday. “But when you have two teams that are trying to find their way it, I think it gives her a little bit more confidence.”
If nothing else to Kieger, Owusu’s entrance into Penn State’s game was a feel-good story. The guard, Kieger said, has put in the work behind the scenes to get her fitness back to get on the court, and Sunday’s game was the culmination of several months to get Owusu ready for Lady Lion basketball.
“I’m just so happy for her. She’s been through so much and it’s been a long road for her,” Kieger said. “I think my biggest moment was when she subbed in the game. I honestly couldn’t stop smiling. I had to remind myself that I had to keep coaching for a little bit because it just made your heart smile.”
Owusu shared her coach’s sentiment. The guard’s taken to Twitter before to share her love for her freshman year of college, her hate for egg nog, and her fandom for A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie. After playing against Rutgers, however, she only shared her love for Penn State and basketball.
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