Penn State Women’s Basketball Weekly Preview: Feb. 16
Deep into the stretch run of the Big Ten women’s basketball season, the Penn State Lady Lions are looking to improve their ranking in the conference before the Big Ten Tournament at the beginning of March.
The Lady Lions have two chances to pick up some important wins this week, starting with a big home matchup against the No. 13 Ohio State Buckeyes on Thursday night, before they travel to Champaign for a Sunday afternoon road matchup with the Illinois Fighting Illini.
After starting off the season 19-0, the Buckeyes have now dropped five of their last seven, and have dropped from No. 2 in the AP Poll to No. 13 as a result. The No. 13 ranking also came prior to their most recent loss, a 83-59 defeat to the team that now resides at No. 2, the Indiana Hoosiers.
Penn State meanwhile sits at 13-12 overall, with a 4-10 mark in conference play. After their win over Northwestern to begin the month, the Lady Lions have dropped their last two games, with a blowout loss to Iowa followed by an overtime loss on the road at Michigan State.
Their 4-10 mark has them good for 11th in the conference standings. But two wins this week could go a long way toward vaulting the blue and white up the charts, as Nebraska, Michigan State and Rutgers all sit directly above the Lady Lions with at least nine losses apiece.
As heavy home underdogs, a win on Thursday for Penn State could be a season-defining moment, as a seemingly vulnerable but still very talented Ohio State team would be no easy victory.
If the Lady Lions are going to defend their home court, they’ll need big performances from their “big three” of Makenna Marisa, Leilani Kapinus and Shay Ciezki.
All three are coming off impressive efforts against Michigan State, as Marisa led all Penn State scorers with 22 in the loss. Kapinus recorded her second double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Ciezki also dropped 12 in the effort, going 3-for-6 from 3-point land.
Ohio State’s key cog has been senior Taylor Mikesell, who ranks among the top 3-point shooters in the country and leads the team in scoring at 17.8 points per game.
The Buckeyes offense can strike a lot of different ways, though, as they have six players including Mikesell that have averaged scoring in the double digits.
The Illinois Fighting Illini sit with an overall record of 19-7 and a 9-6 Big Ten record, putting them one game behind Ohio State and at sixth in the standings. While the Illini are unranked, they were tied with N. C. State for the most votes of any unranked team in the last AP Poll. Their most recent game was a 82-71 loss on the road to a top-10 Maryland team.
Despite being in the mid-pack of the Big Ten standings, Illinois has mostly kept it close with every team they’ve played. The Illini lost by four to Indiana early in the season and grabbed a four-point victory over Iowa on New Year’s Day.
Makira Cook leads the Illini in scoring with 18.4 points per game and is coming off a massive performance against Maryland last Sunday. Cook dropped 29 points in the loss, with 16 coming in the fourth quarter. That total was good enough for the junior to reach the 1,000-point mark for her career.
All around, Ohio State has the second-best offense in points per game in the conference, while Illinois leads in the conference in 3-point shooting percentage.
The task will be tough, but if Penn State has any desire of spoiling the party for the Buckeyes or the Illini, the Lady Lion offense will have to roar to life this week.
Kasey Kreider is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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