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Lady Lions Bested By Michigan 80-75

Penn State women’s basketball (16-6, 7-4 Big Ten) fell to Michigan (15-8, 6-5 Big Ten) 80-75 in the annual “Pink Zone” game Saturday night.

It was a tight game for the entirety of the first half, but after outscoring the Lady Lions by eight in the third quarter, Michigan pulled ahead in the second half. Powered by 23 points from Laila Phelia, the Wolverines had five players score in double figures. Ashley Owusu led Penn State with 18 points.

How It Happened

Before the annual Play4Kay game benefitting the Pink Zone started, all fans stood for a moment of silence to honor families affected by breast cancer.

Makenna Marisa, who’s averaging 22 points in the team’s last two games, scored a right-wing three on Penn State’s first possession before Lauren Hansen answered with one for Michigan. Just over a minute later, Hansen made another from deep.

Three minutes into the game, Shay Ciezki rifled a pass into the paint where Ali Brigham received it and banked in a turn-around layup, and Ashley Owusu scored a second-chance bucket down low to put the Lady Lions back on top by one.

Leilani Kapinus gathered a long rebound that led to a fast break, and she shoveled it back to Marisa for her second triple of the night. Phelia then evened the score at 10-10 prior to the game’s first media timeout.

Cameron Williams scored six straight points for the Wolverines after the stoppage, but Kapinus scored inside and found Ciezki on a backdoor cut for a reverse layup, making it 16-14 with under a minute in the first quarter.

The defensive lapses in the paint continued for the Lady Lions, leaving Chyra Evans alone for a layup. However, on the other end, Ashley Owusu nailed a step-back jumper from just inside the arc in the corner to beat the buzzer and cut Penn State’s deficit to two at the end of one.

The second quarter started with Kapinus sailing a pass out of bounds over the head of Brigham, but she corrected the error by laying it in on a fastbreak on the ensuing possession to tie the game.

Phelia splashed in a three, but Ciezki had a response with a deep one from the left wing. After the shot, an offensive foul was called on Lauren Hansen that electrified the crowd, but Penn State turned it right back over to Michigan and Jordan Hobbs converted by putting in a layup and giving the maize and blue a 25-23 lead.

After a media timeout, the Lady Lions’ defense tightened up to force a shot clock violation, resulting in a score by Brigham in the post on the other side. Michigan then went back down the floor and was forced to call a timeout due to a trap near midcourt.

With the game knotted at 27-27, Ciezki sliced her way around defenders into the paint as time ticked off the shot clock for a layup.

Owusu found a cutting Kapinus off the inbound for another easy basket around the rim a minute before halftime, but Chyra Evans had two quick ones of her own to put Michigan back ahead by two. Brigham then turned it over, leading to a Phelia floater through traffic with two seconds left, capping off a 6-0 run over 43 seconds that put Michigan up 35-31 heading into halftime.

During intermission, hundreds of breast cancer survivors made their way onto the court as local music duo Biscuit Jam put on acoustic performances of Green Day’s “Good Riddance” and Uncle Kracker’s “Drift Away.”

The folks on the floor have survived breast cancer for a combined 1,559 years. It was far bigger than basketball during this game’s halftime, as the fans, all on their feet, erupted for the survivors.

Hansen opened the second half by silencing the crowd with five points in a row and shooting her team to a nine-point lead. Owusu finally put an end to the spurt with a driving layup, but Elissa Brett drilled another triple for the Wolverines not long after.

Hobbs joined in on Michigan’s success from deep when she hit her first of the game with 7:52 to play in the third quarter, giving Michigan a 46-33 advantage and forcing Carolyn Kieger to call a timeout.

Immediately following the timeout, the teams began going back and forth for the next couple of minutes, and the shootout included two easy catches and finishes in the paint for Brigham. A defense finally got a stop when Penn State forced a traveling violation, and the offensive possession that came from it brought a shooting foul on Evans, and Chanaya Pinto went two-for-two.

After the media timeout, Brett was wide open for a layup off an inbound pass, but she missed it, giving Penn State the ball back down eight, but it couldn’t capitalize, giving it back to Michigan. Phelia drained her second three to give the Wolverines a 56-45 lead.

She and Marisa then traded buckets late in the third quarter, in which the Wolverines outscored Penn State 25-17, and Michigan led by 12 heading into the final quarter.

The hot offensive night continued in the fourth, as Hobbs converted on an and-one before Brett knocked down a three, putting their team ahead 66-48, and Penn State wanted a timeout.

Kapinus ejected some hope back into the Bryce Jordan Center when she put in a deep three from the top of the key with just over six minutes left, closing the gap to 12.

After a pair of free throws by Phelia, Owusu made a triple, which was answered within seconds by a Phelia and-one.

Penn State had no quit, going on an 8-1 run over the span of just over a minute to make it an eight-point contest with under 60 seconds to play. With 34 seconds remaining, Brigham took a trip to the line and went one-for-two, making it 78-71.

Hansen hit a pair of foul shots with 30 seconds left, but Kapinus scored off an inbound lob, getting fouled in the process, but missed the free throw to keep the lead at seven.

Ciezki got a steal and layup with 13 seconds left to make it 80-75, but Michigan broke Penn State’s press and dribbled out the remainder of the clock to leave the Bryce Jordan Center with a win.

Takeaways

  • Easy buckets resulted from the Lady Lion guards finding Brigham down low, especially when she was able to slip behind her defender and get to the rim without the ball in her hands.
  • Penn State’s defense struggled in this game, leaving Wolverine cutters and shooters alone on many occasions.
  • The Lady Lions entered this game averaging over nine made threes per game on 41% shooting but made just five on 16 attempts on the night.

What’s Next?

The Lady Lions will look for a bounce-back upset when they travel to face Caitlin Clark and the No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes at 9 p.m. on Thursday, February 8. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

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About the Author

Michael Siroty

Michael Siroty is a rising sophomore from Westfield, New Jersey, majoring in broadcast journalism. When he isn't writing articles or making TikToks for Onward State, Siroty is either taking a peaceful walk around Beaver Stadium or at his summer day camp job. You can contact him to discuss your sushi order or music taste on Instagram and Twitter @msiroty or by email at [email protected].

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