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Lady Lions Stay Motivated Through WBIT Despite Falling Short Of NCAA Tournament Goal

Throughout the regular season, Penn State women’s basketball had a shared goal of making the NCAA Tournament. A six-game losing streak in February plagued the Lady Lions, and the team fell short of reaching that goal.

However, Penn State is still alive in the postseason as a No. 1 seed in the inaugural WBIT after tight victories over George Mason and Belmont in the first and second rounds, respectively.

Despite not hearing their name called on Selection Sunday, the Lady Lions haven’t lost motivation through the postseason and are happy to still be together as a team.

“It was a quick bounce back. We were upset, and then we turned it around,” senior Makenna Marisa said after an 18-point performance against Belmont. “We said, ‘We still get to play basketball with this team who we love playing with.'”

Head coach Carolyn Kieger described the team as mature, which she believes is the driving factor in the group’s optimism after missing out on the NCAA Tournament.

“They love each other. They care about each other. They want to keep representing Penn State,” Kieger said. “Obviously, when you make a goal and you fall short of that, there’s a little bit of a gut punch, but we also know we have to earn it.”

It’s a common theme in college basketball that games are harder to win when March rolls around, and the Lady Lions have recognized that and have only added to the inspiration to win.

Kieger said being selected for the WBIT allowed the team to “fail forward” and prove it’s capable of winning postseason games. She hoped this success would set a baseline for the future of the program.

“This is an awesome opportunity for us to learn and keep propelling ourselves, and I think our team has done a really good job of that in practices,” Kieger said. “We’ve had some of our best practices of the year here in March.”

Those upcoming practices will be crucial, as a matchup with No. 2-seeded Mississippi State is next. Kieger and the team know the challenges facing an SEC team in the postseason but are confident in their identity and ability to win.

Additionally, the close games against George Mason, which went to overtime, and the Bruins have provided lessons the blue and white will take into the game against Mississippi State.

“It’s gonna be tough for us. Mississippi State is a really good team, and we’re excited for the challenge,” Marisa said. “We know when we play Penn State basketball, we can play with anyone.”

Penn State and Mississippi State were both potential NCAA Tournament teams but ultimately didn’t get bids into the field, which will only add another layer of excitement to the upcoming matchup.

“It’s gonna be great for our seniors to go out against an SEC team. Both of us believe we’re NCAA Tournament resumes,” Kieger said. “This is gonna be a great game. We’re really excited to play Mississippi State.”

The Lady Lions’ matchup against the Bulldogs, which will be the last home game of the year regardless of the outcome, will be at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 28, at the Bryce Jordan Center.

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About the Author

Michael Siroty

Michael Siroty is a freshman 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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