Lady Lions NCAA Tournament Preview: UConn
The 4th-seeded Penn State women’s basketball team faces its toughest test of the season when it takes on top-seeded Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament at 4:34 p.m. on Sunday. The Lady Lions are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004, but they will face a partisan crowd in favor of UConn in Kingston, R.I.
How good is UConn? Well, the Huskies are 31-4, which is tremendous for most teams, but it is a down season by their recent standards. UConn is one of the most successful teams in the history of NCAA women’s basketball, having won seven national championships and making 12 Final Four appearances. Last year, UConn had a 90-game winning streak snapped and failed to win a national championship for the first time in three years.
This year, the Huskies finished second to Notre Dame in the Big East, but they rebounded with a Big East Tournament victory. UConn outscored its opponents by an average of 31.2 points over the course of the season. Things actually got even easier as the Huskies entered the NCAA Tournament. In the first round, they beat Prairie View A&M 83-47 before taking out Kansas State by a score of 72-26.
Penn State faced a much tougher road to get to the Sweet 16. In the first round, the Lady Lions pulled away at the end of the game to beat UTEP 85-77. In the second round, it took a 30-point performance from Maggie Lucas to beat LSU 90-80. Penn State has a record of 26-6, but the Lady Lions did not face a team of the caliber of UConn this season.
To have any chance of victory against the Huskies, the Lady Lions will need production out of all their starters. UConn gives up just 45.1 points per game, so Lucas and Alex Bentley can expect to be covered well defensively. It will not be enough to just for one player on the team to have a great night. Only a balanced offensive attack could possibly break down the stingy Huskies defense.
The Lady Lions will also need to have strong night on the defensive side of the ball. In the first two rounds, Penn State’s defense was broken down rather easily. The Lady Lions will have their hands full with Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis especially. The freshman forward averages 15 points per game to lead a UConn offense that averages about 76 points per game.
The winner of this match-up will move on to the Elite 8. The winner would play either the 2-seed Kentucky or the 11-seed Gonzaga at 7 p.m Tuesday night.