Penn State Women’s Basketball Takes Season Opener Against Long Island

Story posted November 10, 2021 in CommRadio, Sports by Grant Sheets

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- As NCAA women’s basketball makes its return across the country, fans at the Bryce Jordan Center were treated to an action-packed opening night of women’s basketball on Tuesday.

In the first of their 11 non-conference games this year, The Lady Lions took down the Long Island University Sharks, 85-66. This was the first ever match between these two programs, but Penn State came into the outing with an all-time record of 15-1 against current Northeast Conference teams.

In her first game as a Lady Lion, sophomore forward Ali Brigham was an unstoppable force in the paint. She led the team in both points and rebounds, scoring 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting while collecting nine boards.

Penn State came out of the gates cold, hitting only 3-of-14 shots as a team around the midway point of the first quarter.

“There’s going to be times when we’re shooting a little bit cold,” third-year head coach Carolyn Kieger said after the win. “That’s when we’ve got to make sure that we’re giving [Brigham] enough touches down low.”

With the first ten minutes of action nearing a close, the Lady Lions began to do just that.

Coming out of a timeout, Brigham dished a pass inside to sophomore Tova Sabel, who laid the ball off the glass for an easy bucket. On the ensuing possession, Brigham was fed in the paint for a basket of her own, giving Penn State a 23-14 lead.

She went on to provide the Lady Lions with another eight points in the second quarter, helping the team to extend their first-half lead by as much as 14.

The Sharks began to queue in on Brigham in the second half, which opened up more opportunities for Penn State’s deep arsenal of weapons. Junior guard Makenna Marisa bounced back from a shaky start, exploding for 12 second-half points.

“We believe Ken can be one of the best guards in the country,” Kieger said. “She had 19, six and six in an off night.”

Coming off the bench, senior guard Kelly Jekot also provided some offensive electricity in her return to the court from injury. She had 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field, including three scores from beyond the arc.

Jekot led the Lady Lions with 15.9 points per game in nine outings of last season, but was knocked out for the year after suffering a torn ACL. Unfortunately, this was not an unfamiliar occurrence for her; she tore her ACL, MCL, LCL and meniscus in a devastating injury during the 2018-19 season.

Kieger eased her senior sharpshooter back into the action with just 14 minutes of playing time. Once she returns to full strength and can handle her typical workload, Jekot will be a pivotal piece to this squad.

A newly established zone defense kept LIU guard Brandy Thomas at bay, holding her to just five points on 1-of-6 shooting. Thomas led the Sharks with 11.5 points per game a year ago and was the NEC Rookie of the Year in 2018-19.

On a night where the Sharks didn’t have much to be proud of, the backcourt tandem of seniors Kiara Bell and Erykah Russell provided a lone bright spot. They combined for 29 points with six baskets apiece.

Freshman guard Emaia O’Brien displayed her potential in the late stages of the game, scoring 11 points in as many minutes.

Penn State will host Rider University on Thursday at 7 p.m., looking to improve to 2-0.

Grant Sheets is a first-year student majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at