By: Thomas Frank Carr
The Lady Lions put up a valiant effort against the No. 1 team in the nation, but the UConn Huskies were just too much for Penn State Sunday in the Bryce Jordan Center. UConn’s defense and clutch shooting keyed a 71-52 victory in front of an excited BJC crowd. The game was very back and forth for the first seven or so minutes of the first half, with neither team having more than a two point lead until nearly 10 minutes in the half remained. After that point, Connecticut locked down the Penn State offense and made it a rough day shooting for all of the Lady Lions. The UConn defense held the Lady Lions without a field goal for 8 minutes in the first half. In that time they went on an 17-2 run and took a commanding 37-22 lead into halftime. A team never wants to be down 15 to any opponent, but to the top team in the country? That’s a tough hill to climb. Lady Lions Head Coach Coquese Washington chalks up the lulls her teams efficiency to chemistry,
“I think we’re a new team and we haven’t gelled. Our chemistry is not where it was last year when we had four starters that played together for three or four years. These starters have played together for three games. There’s going to be fits and lurches.”
The Lady Lions did come back in the second half and have a strong start. They still struggled offensively against a very tough, experience and fast UConn defense. But they fought along the boards and got their hands up in passing lanes. The team ended up with 11 steals and 15 offensive rebounds. Early in the second half the Lady Lions had four consecutive rebounds (three on offense) and stole a pass all in two minutes. UConn Head Coach Geno Auriemma knew that it was going to be a challenge to play the Lady Lion’s defense.
“I thought last year and this year that they are one of the more physical teams we play. They’ve got big girls up front and it was difficulty both years to establish something in the lane because they do a good job of clogging that up. We knew we had to win the game making three’s. You can’t think you’re going to outscore teams, and we had some trouble with that today.”
The Lady Lions shooting finally returned midway through the second half when Maggie Lucas hit a big three pointer but then went down awkwardly. She limped off the court, sat down on the bench in visible pain but was up and back on the court within minutes. As soon as she re-entered the game, you could feel the excitement pick up in the packed Jordan Center. Down 23 points, Lucas then sparked a 21 to 11 run that had the electricity near full voltage in the BJC. During that 10 minute stretch Lucas hit four of five three pointers and was about half an inch away from having another one that was ruled a two point basket. Dara Taylor and Tori Waldner both chipped in three pointers and the Lady Lions roared back to within nine points.
“Maggie Lucas showed why she’s one of the best shooters in the country and one of the best offensive players in the country. She’s relentless. When she gets an open look, she’s going to knock it down,” Coach Washington said after the game.
Unfortunately for the Penn State it was too little too late. UConn responded by putting on a clinic of shooting down the stretch and pulled away from the Lady Lions to finish the game 71-52. Senior Bria Hartley was the game’s high scorer with 29 points. Every time the Lady Lions went on a run she was there with a big shot to stem the tide and keep the strong lead safe for UConn.
For Washington, this matchup was a good early season test for her team to challenge them and push them to be better,
“There are a lot of positives we can take away and the best positive is that it’s November 17th and we’ve got twenty-nine games to play. So we can take some lessons and we get better and we will be fine.”
The Lady Lions next game is this Wednesday when Bucknell visits the BJC at 7:pm.