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Lady Lions Suffer Season-Ending 58-53 Loss To Villanova In WBIT Semifinals

Penn State women’s basketball (22-13, 9-9 Big Ten) fell short to Villanova (22-12, 11-7 Big East) 58-53 in the WBIT semifinals Monday afternoon at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

The matchup of two No. 1 seeds went back and forth throughout the first half, but a third-quarter surge by the Wildcats led them to a narrow victory. Leilani Kapinus scored a team-high 18 points for the Lady Lions, but it wasn’t enough to match Lucy Olsen’s 21.

How It Happened

Head coach Carolyn Kieger rolled out the same Penn State starting lineup as she did in the quarterfinal round, with Chanaya Pinto getting the nod over Shay Ciezki.

Villanova won the tip and scored in four seconds via an easy layup by Kaitlyn Orihel, but Pinto tied it early down low after a Kapinus steal.

Ashley Owusu missed her first attempt of the game, but Kapinus scored a second-chance bucket after an offensive rebound for Penn State’s first lead of the game. Orihel took it right back 12 seconds later with a triple.

Kapinus went two-for-two from the free throw line after being fouled, while Bella Runyan made another Villanova layup to retake the lead. The back-and-forth first quarter continued when Ali Brigham got on the board with a reverse layup off a feed from Kapinus.

Lucy Olsen rounded the defense and kicked it to Runyan in the corner, who drilled a three, but Jayla Oden quickly tied the game at 10-10 with a transition layup. The Lady Lions then forced a five-second violation for the first whistle in almost three minutes, sending the game to the first media timeout.

After over two minutes of scoreless action after the break, Brynn McCurry finally scored for the Wildcats with a midrange jumper. Makenna Marisa knocked down her first shot of the day with a deep three from the top of the key before the Penn State defense forced a shot-clock violation with under 30 seconds left in the first quarter.

While trying to get into the lane for a last-second shot, Owusu had the ball ripped away, and Zanai Jones took it coast-to-coast for a buzzer-beating layup to put Villanova up 14-13 heading into the second quarter.

After checking into the game late in the first, Ciezki made two free throws and hit a pull-up jumper from the elbow to take a three-point lead. Lucy Olsen, the nation’s third-leading scorer, then scored her first points of the game and went on a solo 5-0 run with two jumpers.

Kapinus was left alone up top, and made the defense pay by banking in a deep ball to beat the shot clock. Olsen found a cutting Christina Dalce to retake the lead for Villanova before Orihel received a pass from Runyan for a layup to extend the Wildcats’ advantage to 23-20.

Ciezki got to the paint and dropped in a running hook shot. The game went to a media timeout soon after, as Oden went down and was looked at by medical personnel with just under five minutes to play in the second quarter.

The only points for the next few minutes were three Villanova free throws to take a four-point lead before Owusu, who averages over 18 points per game, finally got on the scoresheet with two foul shots. Marisa missed a contested layup at the buzzer, and the Wildcats entered halftime leading 26-24.

To begin the second half, Kapinus had a pass intercepted by Dalce, and Olsen capitalized on the turnover with a jump shot. Kapinus then turned the ball over again, this time resulting in an Orihel transition layup off an Olsen bounce pass.

Oden reentered the game as Owusu hit two more free throws to cut Villanova’s lead to 32-26, but Orihel made it six again for the Wildcats with an off-ball cut and layup. Brigham turned the ball over and was subbed out for Kylie Lavelle, but Dalce’s illegal screen gave the possession right back to Penn State.

Owusu missed a long jumper, but Pinto grabbed the offensive rebound and found Owusu driving to the paint, and she connected in front of the rim for her first field goal. Runyan looped to the left side of the paint for a layup, which was quickly answered by Owusu finding Marisa on a long feed for a fastbreak layup.

After swinging the ball around the arc, Dalce found Olsen for a triple to make it a 37-30 Villanova lead before a media timeout with 3:59 to go in the third quarter. Maddie Burke, a Penn State transfer, made a deep two after the stoppage to make the lead nine, the largest of the game.

However, Marisa responded with another long top-of-the-key triple before Dalce caught a pass and finished down low. With under a minute left in the third, Megan Olbrys scored her first basket through a foul, but couldn’t convert on the and-one at the line before blocking a Ciezki layup from behind.

Olsen turned it over on the offensive end, but Ciezki missed a three at the buzzer, and Villanova was in control going into the fourth quarter, leading 43-33 after outscoring the Lady Lions 17-9 in the third.

Olsen dropped in another midrange jumper on the baseline to start the fourth quarter before Ciezki had another shot blocked into the crowd by Dalce, the tenth rejection of the game for the Wildcats. Kapinus went up and under for a layup in traffic and hit two free throws to make Penn State’s deficit to eight.

Hall and Burke each sent back a shot, but after possession remained with the blue and white, Kapinus made it 45-39 with two more at the stripe, and head coach Denise Dillon called a Villanova timeout.

Olsen missed a jump shot as the shot clock winded down after the timeout, and Oden made two free throws on the other end. On the following possession, the Lady Lions forced a shot-clock violation, and Kapinus made a jumper from inside the paint to make it a 10-0 run.

After having its deficit cut to just two, Villanova turned it over again with 4:55 to go to send the game to a media timeout. After the pause, Olsen got blocked by Hall, but she quickly hit a corner triple off the baseline inbound to make it 48-43 in favor of the Wildcats before Kieger called a 30-second timeout.

Despite taking a timeout, Penn State didn’t get a good look and committed a shot-clock violation, resulting in Olsen going one-for-two on a trip to the free-throw line after Pinto was called for her third foul.

Frustrations flared as Ciezki gave up another turnover and Oden was whistled for an off-ball foul. Runyan knocked down both shots from the line, but Oden answered with a pull-up deuce from the corner to make it 51-45.

After a Villanova timeout, Kapinus got a steal and tough bucket in transition, and Dalce traveled to give the ball back to Penn State with 1:13 remaining. Owusu then went two-for-two at the free-throw line to make it a two-point game.

Orihel threw the inbound pass out of bounds to give the Lady Lions the ball back, but Owusu missed a heavily-contested layup, and Dalce made two free throws to extend Villanova’s lead to 53-49.

With 46.3 seconds to go, Kapinus got fouled and went one-for-two, missing the first free throw of the game for Penn State. Kapinus blocked Olsen on a layup, but turned it over trying to throw a full-court pass to Oden.

After letting almost 10 seconds run off the clock, Lavelle finally committed a foul to send Olsen to the line, who went one-for-two. Then, Brigham launched a pass over the head of Lavelle to give the ball back to the Wildcats, and Olsen was fouled again with seven seconds to go.

Olsen made both free throws to make it a six-point Villanova lead and Kieger called a timeout. 1.7 seconds ticked off the clock before Owusu hit a triple from the point. Lavelle fouled Orihel, and the junior hit both free throws, making it 58-53 and putting the game out of reach in the final three seconds for Penn State.

Takeaways

  • Penn State entered this game averaging 83.6 points per game, and its previous lowest-scoring game was a 95-62 loss to Iowa. Villanova’s defense was suffocating, and the Lady Lions struggled to convert offensively.
  • The Lady Lions committed 20 turnovers, which led to 25 points for the Wildcats, and several of their giveaways were unforced bad passes.
  • Free throws kept the blue and white alive, going 17-for-18 at the charity stripe.

What’s Next?

The Lady Lions season is over. They will return in November.

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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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