Blue White Illustrated

January 2022

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 40 of 67

J A N U A R Y 2 0 2 2 41 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M WOMEN'S BASKETBALL D ecember might seem a bit early in the season for a must-win game, but when Penn State met Rutgers in its Big Ten home opener Dec. 9, it needed something. The Lady Lions were on a four-game losing streak. Three of those losses had been by double-digit margins. Their first conference game of the season — a visit to Indiana on Dec. 6 — had been a wipeout. Only one player scored more than eight points, and Penn State missed 14 of its 16 three-point attempts in a 70-40 loss to the Hoosiers. By the time Rutgers showed up at the Bryce Jordan Center, the Lady Lions were desperate to turn things around. Coach Carolyn Kieger had challenged her players in practice, believing they were capable of much more than they had showed in recent weeks. She was right. Against the Scarlet Knights, Penn State turned up the heat on the defensive end and came away with the victory they needed to halt their slide, a 52-48 win in which they forced 22 turnovers including nine steals. "We went into this game knowing we had to pull that 'W' out," sophomore forward Ali Brigham said. "Our offense wasn't exactly there, but we had our de- fense to rely on. We've worked hard on defense the last few practices, and hon- estly, this whole year. So, the fact that we could rely on that to get us through — I mean, we won, so it worked out for us." Indeed, the Lady Lions' defensive effort was enough to overcome a cold shooting night both from three-point range (4 for 18) and at the foul line (6 of 11). Kieger acknowledged afterward that the Lady Lions "must fix our offensive woes right now," but it felt good to get a victory, and the win did just what PSU hoped it would do, serving as a spring- board into the final stages of the non- conference season. Penn State followed it with a pair of victories, routing Youngstown State, 78-58, at the Bryce Jordan Center on Dec. 12 and edging Duquesne, 68-60, in Pittsburgh six nights later. While Penn State has been up-and- down on the offensive end, ranking seventh in the Big Ten in scoring (72.7 points per game) and sixth in field goal percentage (44.9), it has been able to rely on junior Makenna Marisa. Through the team's first dozen games, the 5-foot-11 guard from McMurray, Pa., was averaging 21.1 points to rank third in the Big Ten. Marisa was the only facet of Penn State's offense that was working in the loss at Indiana; she poured in 21 points while the rest of the team scored 19. All told, Marisa was Penn State's leading scorer in seven of its first 12 games. Heading into the season, Marisa had been expected to play a major role for the Lady Lions. She had been a reliable scorer as a sophomore, averaging 13.4 points and winning honorable mention All-Big Ten notice. But her junior season has been more than just an evolutionary step; it's been a breakthrough. Kieger said the key is that as the former Pennsylvania Class 6A Player of the Year has gained experience, she's become more adept at using tempo to her advantage. "The game is slowing down for her now," Kieger said. "She's using her change-of-speed better than she ever has. The last two years, she was obvi- ously very skilled, but she played at one speed. I think she's learned how to slow the game down in her mind." Penn State was 7-5 coming off the win at Duquesne, but it was unclear as of late December when the season would resume. The nonconference finale vs. Towson was canceled due to positive COVID tests, and games against Iowa and Ohio State had been postponed. ■ Sophomore forward Ali Brigham was part of a strong defensive effort that forced Rutgers into 22 turnovers in a 52-48 win for the Lady Lions on Dec. 9. PHOTO COURTESY PENN STATE ATHLETICS Defense Helps Lady Lions Halt Early-Season Skid M A T T H E R B | M A T T @ B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M 2 0 2 1 - 2 2 W O M E N ' S B A S K E T B A L L S C H E D U L E Date Opponent Result/Time (ET) Nov. 9 Long Island W, 85-66 Nov. 11 Rider W, 83-69 Nov. 16 Delaware State W, 120-51 Nov. 21 at Clemson L, 67-64 Nov. 26 St. John's* W, 80-75 Nov. 27 Iowa State* L, 93-59 Nov. 28 Kent State L, 81-74 Dec. 2 at Boston College L, 86-69 Dec. 6 at Indiana L, 70-40 Dec. 9 Rutgers W, 52-48 Dec. 12 Youngstown State W, 78-58 Dec. 18 at Duquesne W, 68-60 Dec. 22 Towson Canceled Dec. 30 Iowa Postponed Jan. 3 at Ohio State Postponed Jan. 6 at Maryland (BTN) 6 p.m. Jan. 13 Michigan 7 p.m. Jan. 16 Illinois 2 p.m. Jan. 20 at Northwestern 8 p.m. Jan. 23 at Wisconsin 3 p.m. Jan. 27 Michigan State 7 p.m. Jan. 30 Maryland 2 p.m. Feb. 3 at Nebraska (BTN) 8 p.m. Feb. 6 Northwestern 2 p.m. Feb. 9 at Purdue 8 p.m. Feb. 13 at Rutgers 2 p.m. Feb. 17 Nebraska 7 p.m. Feb. 21 at Michigan State (BTN) 6 p.m. Feb. 27 Minnesota TBA March 3-6 Big Ten Tournament TBA * Gulf Coast Showcase at Estero, Fla.

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