Penn State Women's Basketball: Lady Lions Not Fazed by UConn Matchup
Where do we begin?
Four perfect seasons, seven national championships, 12 Final Fours, 36 Big East titles — and, lest we forget, 100 percent graduation rate among four-year players — all of it since Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma took over a Connecticut program in 1985 with only one winning season.
Bravo, bravo, bravo.
“He’s 'ight,” Penn State head coach Coquese Washington quipped Thursday, using the slang word for all right. “Don’t blow the man’s head up any bigger than it already is.”
The No. 4 seed Lady Lions, in the midst of a charmed season not seen since 2004, meet the gold standard of women’s basketball, top-seeded UConn, at 4:34 p.m. Sunday in Kingston, R.I. in a regional semifinal.
“Their history sells itself,” said assistant coach Maren Walseth, a member of the 2000 Lady Lion squad that lost to Connecticut in the Final Four.
“The current state of the program sells itself. There’s an element of a culture that’s been established there, as has other places, and at one time there was a great culture here and I think we’re getting back into a great culture.
“Success breeds success. It’s hard to stay on top once you get there, but it’s harder to get there. They don’t do anything special or fancy or different than anybody else does.”
Of course, Washington, her stellar backcourt tandem of Maggie Lucas and Alex Bentley, as well as the rest of her team knows this.
But it doesn’t mean this is a time to clam up and become distracted by the Huskies pedigree.
Lucas, before meeting with reporters Thursday, took kind of a one-footed, off-balanced heave from 40 feet beyond the arc and made it.
“I’ll bet you a lot of people don’t think we have a chance,” she then said. “But we’re gonna give it our best shot.”
Washington, who led Penn State to its first Sweet 16 since 2004, called UConn the best defensive team the Lions will face all season. The Huskies led the nation, allowing just 45.1 points a game all season. Penn State is averaging 87.5 points per game in the NCAA Tournament.
Penn State is 3-6 all-time against Connecticut but has lost six straight since Auriemma became coach. In those losses, the average margin of defeat has been 15.5 points.
Washington is 0-1 against UConn, the only meeting a 77-63 loss in 2008. But . . .
“I beat Geno as an assistant coach before (at Notre Dame),” she said. “If there’s a bucket list . . . I don’t really get into that kind of stuff about the stature. It’s a game. I’m competitive. I wanna win the game because it’s the next game on our schedule.
“My mom could be coaching and I’ll tell her, ’Hey, sorry for you, we’re coming.’ ”