The Penn State Women’s basketball team hasn’t been to to the Sweet 16 since 2004, and since then there have been many changes in the Lady Lions ‘ program. The UConn Lady Huskies, on the other hand, haven’t changed much at all.
When the two teams meet on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. at the Ryan Center in Kingston, RI it will mark the 19th straight season that UConn (31-4) has reached the Sweet 16. The Huskies are rated the #3 team in the country, and they defeated Prairie View A&M 83-47 before crushing Kansas State 72-26 to set up the showdown with Penn State.
PSU (26-6) scored 175 points in its two tournament wins against UTEP and LSU, and the Nittany Lions will need every bit of that offensive prowess in this game. UConn leads the nation in scoring defense, holding teams to just 45.1 points-per-game, and they also rank number one in field goal percentage defense with an average of .297.
Penn State is 3-6 all time against UConn and 0-3 against the Huskies in the NCAA tournament. UConn prevailed in the Elite 8 in 2004, the Sweet 16 in 2002, and then in the final four in 2000.
Still, the Huskies are wary of the Nittany Lions. “At this time of the year, the 16 teams that are left are all good teams,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “We’re playing the Big 10 regular season champions and they won that for a reason. Their guards are very good. They shoot the ball well. They get to the free-throw line and they are great free throw shooters.
“It is going to be a challenge for our guys to get back on defense and match up quickly. In games in which Penn State has gotten off a lot of shots, they have been extremely successful.”
Connecticut is led by four double-digit scorers. Freshman forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis leads the team with 15 points per game. Senior Tiffany Hayes scores 14.8 per game, sophomore Bria Hartley adds 13.8, and Stefanie Dolson chips in 10.
Penn State counters with high-scoring guards Maggie Lucas, who had 30 against LSU, Alex Bentley, and Zhaqua Gray, with 6-2 Mia Nickson and 6-5 Nikki Greene starting up front.
“I thought that when Coquese Washington got the job at Penn State, it was a great hire,” Auriemma added, “and they have done a great job since she has arrived. She has a lot of great things in place and does it at a place like Penn State. It’s not just any school. I’m really impressed with the job she has done.”
With a spot in the Elite 8 going to the winner, Penn State will surely be doing its best to change one more thing–that losing streak to UConn.
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