Penn State got off to a dream start in Sunday’s contest against Syracuse, the No. 22 team in the country.
After scheduling the trip to Syracuse just days ago, the Lady Lions came out ready to play in a game that would've been the biggest win of coach Carolyn Kieger's two year tenure at Penn State thus far.
They led 22-14 after one quarter, shooting 42% from the field in the first, a much better start to the game than they have seen in their previous contests.
But, the Lady Lions' hopes at pulling off an upset win faded rather quickly, as the Orange went on multiple second half runs and ultimately came out on top 82-72 at the Carrier Dome.
The Lady Lions clearly put the Orange off their game in the first half — Syracuse looked flustered and it showed in its play, committing double digit turnovers and shooting an uncharacteristic amount of air balls.
The Orange kept themselves in the game thanks to a full court press that led to three straight turnovers from Penn State.
Those turnovers were only the beginning of the collapse that would strike the Lady Lions in the second quarter, as a 15-0 run put the Orange out in front 33-32 at the half, after Penn State led by double digits for most of the game.
As the second half continued, the talent on the Syracuse roster began to show as the Orange pulled themselves out of their shooting slump from the first half and began to take control.
Syracuse led by eight at the end of the third quarter and never looked back.
Penn State had a few spurts in the latter part of the third quarter and in the fourth, but were unable to string together stops on the defensive end to back up their baskets on offense.
SMU transfer Johnasia Cash recorded her first double-double as a Lady Lion, notching 13 points and 10 rebounds while Villanova transfer Kelly Jekot continues to impress as she contributed 13 points as well.
The Lady Lions' top scorer was Tova Sabel who had 15 points on five 3-pointers and shot 5-of-7 from 3-point range and 5-of-9 for the game.
Lady Lions' inexperience leads to collapse
After jumping out to a large lead in the first quarter and some of the second quarter, the Lady Lions likely felt like they were on top of the world, taking it to the Orange and their highly talented roster.
The end of the second quarter showed just how fast that can all come crashing down in college basketball.
After the Orange implemented the full-court press, the youthful Penn State backcourt suddenly was out of sorts.
Careless errors bringing the ball up the floor led to easy baskets for the Orange going the other way.
The timeout taken from Kieger may have been too late, as Kieger watched her back court fall apart in front of her on the floor, becoming visibly frustrated on the sideline.
Penn State had come onto Syracuse's home floor and taken the game to them, but this opportunity was squandered and ultimately ended up being the turning point that lost them the game.
Lady Lions get off to hot start
In previous games this season, the Lady Lions had started slowly, shooting poorly from the field and allowing their lesser opponents to stay in the game.
While they may have lost the game today, the team’s hot start in the first quarter was a good sign going forward.
Not only did it break the streak of slow starts, it showed that the Lady Lions have the ability to keep themselves in the game against good teams and potentially even win those games.
The team will have several more opportunities this season to take on ranked teams this season.
If they are able to clean up the self-inflicted errors that cost them in the second quarter they may be able to compete against the best teams in the Big Ten.
Sophomores struggle in first real big game of the season
After playing on a team that went 1-17 in the Big Ten last season, the sophomores on Penn State never really found themselves in a game that truly mattered last year.
This season, with a new team and a pristine 3-0 record, these sophomores — Makenna Marisa, Anna Camden and Shay Hagans found themselves in a key matchup just four games into the season.
This was their first real experience with the pressure that a big game brings on a team with high aspirations this season and the group responded with a lackluster performance.
Marisa had nine points and nine assists, but Hagans and Camden had four points each, on a combined 4-for-15 shooting.
All three sophomores had three turnovers.
The Lady Lions needed a better performance from their sophomore starters if the team was going to have a chance in the game.
Each has shown their offensive prowess at some point during the season, but consistency has yet to be found, something that will be needed as the Lady Lions enter the rigorous Big Ten regular season slate.