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Lady Lions’ Dominant Win Over Wisconsin Brings Team One Game Closer To NCAA Tournament

The first Big Ten Tournament game for Penn State women’s basketball was over almost as soon as it started.

The Lady Lions jumped out to a huge lead against Wisconsin from the first whistle. While the Badgers crawled back during the first quarter, Penn State still had the game in hand before 10 minutes passed in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Led by senior guard Ashley Owusu, who scored nine points in the first quarter and finished the game with 13, Penn State finished that first quarter with a 27-15 lead. The Badgers never found their way back.

Owusu said postgame she and her teammates wanted to start hot and start hot they did. The No. 7-seeded Lady Lions took down the No. 10-seeded Badgers 80-56 before Wisconsin had a chance to realize what was happening.

The win over Wisconsin was one of the biggest of Carolyn Kieger’s tenure as Penn State’s head coach, as the Lady Lions reached the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament for the first time in a decade. That importance wasn’t lost on Owusu, a Big Ten veteran coming to the end of her collegiate career with a single-year stint in Happy Valley.

“It feels great. Being a part of history is always awesome,” Owusu said. “Just being able to come out and do it with a team that I love and coaches that support me is awesome.”

It’s been a long haul for the Lady Lions and Kieger over the last five years. After winning seven games in her first season as Penn State’s head coach, Kieger’s taken her team to a 19-win season with a chance to improve that record in the Big Ten Tournament.

“When we came here, we wanted to put the jersey back in a better place and put it back where Penn State belongs, which is back playing deep into March,” Kieger said. “[The players] deserve it. They put a lot of hard work in. Really, I’m just more elated for them and excited for them to feel what it feels like to be proud of themselves.”

The Lady Lions’ win was defined by their standard style, which featured a high press and intense speed designed to throw teams off balance. Against Wisconsin, the Lady Lions’ quick rotation was in full effect.

Ten different players scored for the Lady Lions, from Owusu with 13 points to Shay Ciezki, normally a star, with two points of her own, and no player spent more than 26 minutes on the court.

“Starting lineup goes out there. The game changers come in,” Kieger said. “Every single one of them could be a starter on our team. And our team buys into that. Our team buys into next woman up. It’s just phenomenal.”

The tactic, Kieger said, will keep her players fresh for another game fewer than 24 hours after the game against Wisconsin finished. The Lady Lions will have to face No. 2 seed Iowa on Friday, one of the best teams in the country with the best player in the country — Caitlin Clark.

Penn State faced Iowa once before in the 2023-24 season, but it wasn’t pretty for the Lady Lions. They fell 111-93 to Iowa in Carter-Hawkeye Arena in the second loss of a six-game skid. Clark wasn’t even the Lady Lions’ greatest vice in that matchup, as Hannah Stuelke dropped 47 points while Clark added 27 of her own.

Still, while Kieger acknowledged the difficulties of defending Stuelke, Clark was at the forefront of her mind after Thursday’s win. Despite Clark’s 27 points, Kieger said she felt forcing 12 turnovers from the young star came from a tactic the Lady Lions should replicate.

“We’re going to have to repeat that and really kind of get — changing, throwing different bodies at her, longer defenders,” Kieger said. “Switching it up with how we’re guarding ball screens.”

The Lady Lions sit on the edge of the NCAA Tournament bubble, ranked as one of the final teams left out of the tournament by many experts. While the win over Wisconsin was important for Penn State’s chances, a good performance against Iowa could go even further.

“[I’m] really excited for this next round matchup,” Kieger said. “Obviously, Iowa is doing phenomenal things for the conference, Caitlin Clark, and what it means for the sport of basketball. Phenomenal opportunity for us.”

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a junior journalism major at Penn State and an associate editor at Onward State. He covers Penn State football and enjoys yelling on Twitter about Philadelphia/Penn State sports. He also listens to Mac Miller more than you. If you want to find him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. Please send all positive affirmations and/or hate mail toward him on Twitter (iamjoelister) or via email ([email protected]).

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