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Lady Lions: As season ends, Kieger likes progress but says, ‘We’re nowhere close to where we want to be’

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Carolyn Kieger

The Penn State women ended their season Wednesday night with a 75-66 loss to Michigan State in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament, ending a campaign in which the Lady Lions made a lot of strides in some areas under second-year coach Carolyn Kieger.

Penn State finished 9-15 overall and lost eight of its final nine games. The Lady Lions went 6-13 in the Big Ten, up from 1-17 last season, with the highlight coming a few weeks ago with a 69-67 win over No. 15 Ohio State.

Kieger certainly can be happy about the progress, but to listen to her after the game, it’s clear she’s not satisfied by any means and knows that a lot of work still needs to be done to get the program back to contending in the Big Ten.

“Obviously took strides this year to grow and improve, but we’ve got to take a giant leap next year,” Kieger said. “I know our team is motivated in the locker room. They’re ready to keep learning, keep growing and keep coming together as a program.

“I think it’s huge any time you can see growth, any time you can put in the time and effort and see change.”

But, Kieger added this moments later:

“We’re nowhere close to where we want to be. (The players) know that. They came here to make the jersey better and leave it in a better place, and that’s what they’re intending to do. For us, this is motivation, and yes, we’ve improved and we were able to beat the teams that were under us in the record. And now we’ve got to learn how to (beat) the teams that are above us and knock off those teams. Ohio State was one, and it was a start, but it’s just a foundation that we want to continue to build.”

Kieger also was clear about what steps need to be taken this offseason to continue the improvement in the program.

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“The biggest thing we just talked about right now is building new habits, and that takes time,” she said. “When adversity hits, your old habits come into place, and that’s what happened to us in that second half. We start turning over the ball, we start not following the game plan.

“So, we’re gonna spend a lot of time this summer — our two words are gonna be habits and intent. What’s our intent every workout, what’s our intent every conditioning session, every film session? And that will continue to grow our IQ. We’ve got to learn how to outthink opponents in the Big Ten. When you’re talking about playing in the best conference in America, it’s not just about hard work at this point. It’s about outsmarting teams, as well, and we’ve got to get there with our IQ and our intent.”

Maddie Burke led Penn State with 22 points Wednesday, while Shay Hagans added 13 and Anna Camden 11.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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