March 18, 2012
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - Deb Patterson and Kansas State will finally get their chance to play Connecticut.
The eighth-seeded Wildcats will face the No. 1 seed Huskies in the second round of the NCAA women's tournament Monday night. It will be the first meeting between the schools despite Kansas State being in UConn's draw five times in the past 11 years.
"I think the facts are we are always in UConn's bracket," Patterson said. "What's exciting to me is that we finally put ourselves in position to advance here in Connecticut and ultimately play against Connecticut. That's the goal in the NCAA tournament, test yourself against the next great opponent."
Kansas State (20-13) lost in the first round last season in Storrs to Purdue, blowing a chance to play against UConn.
"Last year, we didn't advance so we didn't get the opportunity to play Connecticut," Kansas State guard Brittany Chambers said. "We're excited that we got past the first round and are excited to have the challenge to play Connecticut."
The Wildcats survived a tough test from Princeton in the opening round Saturday, beating the Tigers 67-64. Senior Branshea Brown had a career-high 22 points to lead Kansas State. The Wildcats have made the NCAAs six times since advancing to the regional semifinals in 2002 but haven't been able to win more than one game.
The Huskies (30-4) are seeking their 19th straight trip to the regionals. Even though they've never faced each other, UConn coach Geno Auriemma is familiar with Patterson.
"I've known Deb a long time. She was one of my assistants when we coached a junior national team," Auriemma said. "Each year they play their style of play. Their program's built around their defense. They are very patient and always disciplined every year. They try to force you to play their style at their pace. I'm sure tomorrow will be the same thing. We average 80 something; they want to be in the 60s."
Patterson has been really impressed with the Huskies' defense, watching from afar.
"UConn always plays unbelievably great defense," Patterson said. "When they decide to run and jump you or trap you, it's like looking through a forest especially if you're small. What makes them so good? It's a long list. It's like looking at a stat sheet; well OK that's good, that's good, that's good. Even though Geno says that's not good enough, that's what makes them great - good is never good enough."
Auriemma wasn't pleased with his team's defense in the opening round, when they allowed Prairie View to score 32 points in the first half. The Huskies turned up the pressure after halftime and held the Lady Panthers to just 15 points in the second half of a 83-47 victory.
"I think for us it seems like it's always the same," Auriemma said. "No matter when we play our defense has been good for the most part. This is not one of those years we can count on getting 80-85 points on a regular basis. We have to work a little harder offensively. It's going to be all about that, make sure we get the right shot at the right time."
Freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 21 points to help UConn to the opening win. She matched the school record set by Jamelle Elliott in 1993 for points by a Huskies player in her first tournament game.
"She's pretty efficient with her shots," Auriemma said. "She doesn't need a lot of shots and that's one thing that maybe helps her score a lot of points quickly. She takes advantage of the opportunities she gets. Going forward, if she plays like this every night, we have a chance."