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Lady Lions Pound Bucknell 94-51 in Season Opener

UNIVERSITY PARK – The players on this year’s Penn State women’s basketball team might be too young to remember the Eagles’ “Hotel California,” but, on Tuesday night against Bucknell, the Lady Lions revived a spirit that hasn’t been seen here since 1969.

That’s the last time a Lady Lion team won its opener by more points than Carolyn Kieger’s squad did.

Looking every bit like a team that’s serious about playing with a chip on its shoulder, Penn State took care of business in its season opener, Shay Ciezki leading a half-dozen Lady Lion scorers in double figures in a 94-51 rout of the visiting Bison at Bryce Jordan Center.

“I think it’s really important (to play like this) the first game of the season,” said senior guard Makenna Marisa, who finished with 14 points, four assists and a pair of the Lady Lions’ 15 steals. “Having a great start like that is extremely important for all of us and our team confidence. We’re just doing what we practice every single day.”

Penn State led by 46 when Drexel transfer Kyle Lavelle nailed a 3-pointer with 1:01 left, virtually assuring the team of its first 40-point season-opening margin since it beat St. Francis 117-77 in 2013. 

The Lady Lions scored a 42-point triumph over Rutgers in 1994, but you have to go back to the 78-24 drubbing Marie Lintner’s team pinned on Bloomsburg in 1969 to find a more decisive opening win.

Lavelle finished with 13 points, while Tay Valladay scored 12 and Jayla Oden and Moriah Murray 10 apiece.

All four of those players are transfers, new to the roster this season.

Ali Brigham just missed double figures with seven points. When Grace Hall hit the first end of a two-shot foul with 5:32 left, all 11 Lady Lions that played had scored.

“Awesome,” Kieger said. “With a group of transfers coming in and our core group of returners here, the way that our synergy is now, it’s phenomenal.”

Kieger beamed when noticing the 22 assists on 35 field goals in the statbox, as well as the 26 turnovers the Lady Lions forced against the team picked sixth in the Patriot League. Penn State also outrebounded the Bison 37-25, shot 59.3% from the field, made 12-of-13 3-pointers and scored 44 points, 31 off turnovers and 21 in transition.

Penn State also held Bucknell to 35% from the floor.

It was, quite simply, the kind of performance a team produces if it’s serious about taking a major step up in a Power-5 basketball conference.

“This is a ‘chip’ season for us, having a chip on our shoulder,” Kieger said. “We need to play like that regardless of who we’re playing, regardless of what the score is.”

The Lady Lions did all that even without its most heralded transfer, guard Ashley Owusu, and it did most of it without redshirt junior Alli Campbell.

A redshirt junior from Altoona, Campbell, who has missed all but 10 games the last two years because of injuries, left the game 57 seconds after entering in the first quarter, helped by a trainer, first to the table and then to the back with an apparent leg injury.

She returned to the bench in the second half but not to the game.

A former top 25 national recruit, Campbell made a corner 3 almost immediately after entering the game and then registered an assist right after that but came up limping after a dead ball.

“You saw her in those 50 seconds. What a phenomenal job she’s done coming back from injury. She looked bigger, faster, stronger than ever,” Kieger said. “Unfortunately, she went down, but she’ll be back. Ashley, same thing.”

It will give Kieger a nice problem to sort out, figuring out the minutes and the playing time. Penn State pushed the lead to 41 when Murray canned a pair of free throws with 2:11 left.

Ciezki had 13 points in the first half, including a trey off Chanaya Pinto’s steal with 28.6 seconds left in the second quarter that staked the Lady Lions to a 48-31 lead at the intermission.

Oden added eight points before the break, including four on a couple of terrific drives to the hoop right upon coming into the contest.

Penn State forced 15 turnovers over the first two quarters and scored 18 points off them. 

The Lady Lions quickly took a double-figure lead at 14-4 on Oden’s fastbreak layup.