Lady Lions Bow Out of NCAA Tournament With Loss to UConn
In the end, the Connecticut women’s basketball team was just too talented. The Lady Lions fought until the final whistle, but it wasn’t enough to even come close. The Huskies dominated for almost the entire 40 minutes in a 77-59 victory, knocking Penn State out of the NCAA Tournament and ending their season.
From the start, the 1-seed UConn (32-4) offense proved itself to be more than the 4-seed Penn State (26-7) could handle. By the first media timeout, the Lady Lions already faced a 10-point deficit. With 11:27 left in the first half, that lead was up to 14. Penn State eventually closed the gap to five points, but the Huskies shot back out ahead to lead 43-29 at the half.
The one glimmer of hope for Penn State was that UConn was in foul trouble, with four players having two fouls at halftime. The Huskies cast those hopes aside, however, with a quick 10-0 run to open the second half. To the credit of the Lady Lions, they fought hard to the very end despite the deficit. They even outplayed the Huskies at points toward the end of the game. It would not be enough though, and the Lady Lions fell in a 77-59 defeat.
UConn shot the ball extremely well at a 48.5 percent clip. Bria Hartley led the way with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting, and Kelly Faris shot 70 percent from the floor en route to 15 points. Three other Huskies joined them with double-figure point totals, and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis turned in a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Rebounding was another area that UConn dominated, pulling down 12 more than Penn State.
The Lady Lions struggled shooting the ball, although they did improve slightly as the game went on. They ended at 35.5 percent, with Maggie Lucas and Alex Bentley going a combined 8-for-32. Lucas finished with 15 points, and Bentley had 11.
Going up against one of the nation’s best defenses, the Lady Lions knew that players other than Lucas and Bentley would have to score. Mia Nickson did her part, scoring a team-high 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Little support came from the rest of the team though. Zhaque Gray could not find her stroke in her final game for Penn State. The Lady Lions’ only senior went 2-for-8 for just four points. Nikki Greene was plagued with foul trouble and a tough defensive match-up. She attempted one shot that she missed and got three rebounds in limited action.
There is plenty of hope for the future of Penn State women’s basketball, however. In five years, coach Coquese Washington has dragged this team from a state of turmoil after Rene Portland’s tenure to a Sweet 16 berth. Only one player graduates from this squad that won the Big Ten regular season title. The Lady Lions may not yet be ready to take on teams like UConn and Baylor, but Washington certainly has the team moving in the right direction.
Penn State’s season is over, but UConn heads on to the Elite 8. The Huskies will play on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Kingston, R.I., against either Kentucky or Gonzaga.
Note: StateCollege.com’s Ben Jones was in Kingston for the game. Here is his recap.