Penn State Women's Basketball vs Rutgers (20&15)

Guard Makenna Marisa (20), left, and Maddie Burke (15), middle, attempt to block Rutgers’ Mael Gilles during the Penn State women’s basketball game against Rutgers on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021 at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pa. The Lady Lions lost to the Scarlet Knights 60-55.

After a summer of preparation, Penn State is back and ready for an action-packed schedule littered with key matchups throughout.

The Lady Lions open their season Tuesday at 7 p.m. against LIU at the Bryce Jordan Center.

While the blue and white has not faced LIU in the past few years, this game may be a challenge for Penn State — although neither is ranked in the top 25.

Last season the Lady Lions had a record of 9-15, and they moved on to the Big Ten Tournament. However, during the tournament, the blue and white lost to Michigan State with a score of 66-75.

LIU last season had a record of 7-11 — playing only nine teams and playing each team twice.

Despite being foes in the first contest of the year, Penn State and LIU will take much different paths after Tuesday.

LIU will face teams such as Vermont, Lafayette and Sacred Heart, while the Lady Lions will play Big Ten teams such as Indiana, Iowa and Maryland.

The blue and white had many close games last season — most notably beating Rhode Island by one point and Ohio State by two.

Then-sophomore guard Makenna Marisa helped Penn State win in one of those tight matchups when she made a game-winning layup against Rhode Island.

Penn State played Ohio State twice last season. The first time they faced each other was Jan. 4, and the Buckeyes won 82-69. During this game, Ohio State was able to get a fast lead on the Lady Lions.

However, Penn State bounced back the second time around and beat the Buckeyes 69-67 on Feb. 24.

While the Buckeyes will not get a regular-season chance for revenge, the Lady Lions will play Ohio State on Jan. 3 in Columbus.

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Another important fixture for the Lady Lions will be their tilt with Rutgers.

Penn State played Rutgers twice last season, falling in both affairs. The first time they faced each other was on Feb. 28, and Rutgers took the victory 60-55.

During this match, the Lady Lions stepped up their play during the third quarter and were able to catch up to the Scarlet Knights but still failed to come out on top.

They played each other again on March 2, and Rutgers again won — this time by an even greater margin of 74-56.

The second time Rutgers won, Penn State got a head start in the beginning, but the Scarlet Knights controlled and dominated the second quarter, outsourcing Penn State 25-12.

Another key contest awaiting coach Carolyn Kieger’s squad is its dates with Michigan State, where the blue and white will seek revenge from last season, as Penn State lost to Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament on March 10.

The blue and white will play Michigan State twice this upcoming season. The first time they will face each other will be on Jan. 27 and the second time on Feb. 21.

Last season, the first time Michigan State and Penn State played each other, the Spartans won 78-65.

Despite the loss, Penn State outscored Michigan State during the second half with the Lady Lions, totaling 39 points, while the Spartans totaled 30.

In that second matchup, the two sides met in the Big Ten Tournament. Now-fifth-year senior guard Niya Beverley had an injury and could not help Penn State advance past the first round of the conference tournament.

With the regular season set to begin on Tuesday, Penn State will look to get off to a strong start against several nonconference opponents.

The season will start to heat up in terms of difficulty starting with Boston College on Dec. 2 for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. From then on, the Lady Lions will be tasked with improving on a dismal 6-13 conference record from last season as it faces the Big Ten’s best, starting with Indiana on Dec. 6.

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