Women's basketball advances to the Elite Eight
Huskies shut down Penn State to move on
Published: Sunday, March 25, 2012
Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 16:08
KINGSTON, R.I. -- Penn State guard Alex Bentley declared last week that UConn would “have to figure out how to keep us from scoring.”
While the top-seeded Huskies (32-4, 13-3 Big East) held up their end of what was supposed to be a shootout, it was their defense that carried them to a 77-59 Sweet 16 victory Sunday over the Lady Lions.
“We had gone into the game knowing UConn was a good defensive team, and they gave a great effort and they play good team defense,” Bentley said after the game.
The Huskies held Bentley and Penn State to a season-low 59 points on 36.1 percent shooting. The Big Ten regular season champs, which came in seventh in the nation at 76.2 points per game, became the 31st team this season to fail to reach the 60-point plateau against UConn’s top-ranked defense.
Sophomore Bria Hartley led the way with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting, followed by junior Kelly Faris, who finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists, one block and three steals.
Freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had a double-double with 12 points and a career-high 11 rebounds, while Stefanie Dolson and Tiffany Hayes each tallied 10.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons,” said fifth-year Penn State coach Coquese Washington, who had her team back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004. “They play very well together, they execute their offense very well, they move well without the ball and they’re just a pretty tough team.”
The Huskies raced out to a 14-4 lead at the 16:42 mark, and was up 22-10 by the time the second TV timeout rolled around.
But UConn’s offense would go stagnant after junior Kelly Faris left the game with her second foul at the 13:38 mark, she scored just four points over the next four-plus minutes. Faris was one of four UConn players – along with Doty, Mosqueda-Lewis and Dolson – to have two fouls in the first half.
The Lady Lions used a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to five, before a 17-8 run – sparked by eight points from Mosqueda-Lewis – gave the Huskies a 43-29 halftime edge.
UConn extended the lead to 20 off a 6-0 run to begin the second half, and the Lady Lions could never get closer than 15 the rest of the way.
“For us it’s one of those things where we have to have a whole team effort,” Faris said. “We had a bunch of us in foul trouble, and everyone just kind of stepped up at their own time.
“And we’ve had a few different games this season that have been like that, where we’ve gotten the best out of our play, out of the game, what we can possibly do.”
Forward Mia Nickson led the way for the Lady Lions with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
Bentley and sophomore guard Maggie Lucas – who came into the game averaging 19.6 and 14.3 points – scored 15 and eight points, respectively. The two Big Ten first teamers shot a combined 7-of-31 and turned the ball over seven times.
Starting forward Nikki Greene, who came in averaging 10.1 points per game, was held scoreless for 13 minutes of action.
UConn will play second-seeded Kentucky at the Ryan Center Tuesday night in the South Regional Elite Eight matchup. With a win, the Huskies would tie the NCAA record with their fifth straight Final Four appearance.
“I told them … that this was going to have to be a team thing,” Auriemma said at the postgame press conference. “Our team was going to have to play defense and our team was going to execute offensively. So I was really, really happy after the game to be able to sit back and say that’s exactly what it was…”
“This is one of the more complete games we’ve played in awhile, and it couldn’t come at a better time.”