Penn State Uses Gritty Second Half to Propel Past Purdue in Crucial Big Ten Showdown
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – After a first half which saw exquisite 3-point shooting from the Lady Lions, Penn State (11-5, 2-3 Big Ten) leaned on its defense in the second half to claim an important 70-60 conference win over the Purdue Boilermakers (11-4, 2-3 Big Ten).
It was a gritty and pretty performance at times for the Lady Lions, as Penn State held an eight-point lead after shooting 58% from 3-point territory in the first half. That advantage came in spite of Penn State shooting just 33% from the field as a whole over that same period.
The 3-point shooting slowed down in the second half, and the defensive prowess of both teams was put to the test throughout the game’s second 20 minutes as baskets became harder to come by.
No player seemed to exemplify the physical nature of the game more than redshirt sophomore guard Leilani Kapinus. Kapinus filled up the stat sheet, recording her first double-double of the season with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Perhaps more impressive, though, were Kapinus’ seven steals throughout the contest, to go along with four assists and a critical late-game block.
“I was just feeding off my teammates’ energy. They were backing me up… hyping me up,” Kapinus said. “It goes a long way. Especially when our shots are not falling, we just have to stay together.”
“When she locks in mentally, emotionally and physically, I think she’s one of the best defenders in the country,” head coach Carolyn Kieger said of Kapinus. “So we gotta keep challenging her and coaching her up because she literally has the potential to be a nightmare on the defensive end.”
Penn State started the game a remarkable 6-for-7 from 3-point land, as Kapinus, Shay Ciezki, Makenna Marisa and Anna Camden all got involved from beyond the arc. But the inside baskets are where the Lady Lions struggled, as Penn State only converted six of 27 shots from inside the 3-point line.
“Shots are hot and cold sometimes. Today we were cold from inside,” Marisa said. “And that’s the game of basketball, hot and cold is how it goes sometimes. So we just gotta get back in practice and work on those reps.”
Kapinus then began to take over the game in the second half, scrapping for every loose ball and coming up with timely steals to thwart Purdue’s comeback bids.
Penn State’s advantage grew as large as 15 in the second half, but a few reckless turnovers and scoring droughts allowed the Boilermakers to hang around.
Led by forward Caitlyn Harper and guard Lasha Petree, Purdue began to hit some timely shots, and a 3-pointer from the latter brought the game to within four with less than three minutes to play.
But Marisa followed the Petree 3-pointer with a layup on the next possession to grow the lead back to six. Kapinus then made arguably the play of the game, as she grabbed her seventh and final steal and took it coast-to-coast for a back-breaking bucket.
A last-ditch effort for Purdue to get back into the contest was turned away, and a smooth stepback jumper from Ciezki gave Penn State a 10-point lead with 49 seconds to play, putting the game on ice for good.
Kapinus’ big day might have been a turning point for the Lady Lions, as they looked to re-establish their physicality after a tough loss on the road to Michigan four days prior.
“To win Big Ten games, you’re gonna have to get on the floor for every loose ball. You’re gonna have to be physical down low and get some rebounds,” Kieger said. “Pretty wasn’t the goal of this game. Win was the goal and tough was the goal. So we will take it.”
Penn State will look to pick up another crucial Big Ten win when they travel to play Nebraska on Wednesday, Jan. 11.
Kasey Kreider is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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