March 23, 2012
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - UConn is up to its normal tricks in the NCAA tournament.
Score, score, score.
But the Huskies might have some competition in that category this weekend. At least that's the game plan, if you listen to Penn State junior guard Alex Bentley.
"We're a scoring team. I don't think they've played against a real, true scoring team," she said. "That's what we do. That's what we do best. They're pretty much going to have to pick their poison. They're going to have to figure out how to keep us from scoring."
Time will tell in Penn State's first appearance in the Sweet 16 since 2004.
But give credit to No. 4 seed Penn State (26-6) for thinking big and bold, at least, as it prepares to play the top-seeded Huskies (31-4) on Sunday in Kingston, R.I. in the regional semifinals. Even though UConn has ended the two deepest NCAA tournament runs the Lions have made this century, this group seems confident it can be more competitive.
And they're not afraid to say it.
"We've got stronger personnel at this time than we had then," Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. "I think our confidence as a team is certainly higher. Obviously, we've had some success the last few years. That gives us confidence going into this game that we can play our game, execute our game plan.
"If we do that, we feel good about our chances of having success."
Few teams have had success scoring on the Huskies. UConn leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing opponents an average of 45.1 points per game while they score an average of 76.3.
"They're the best defensive team we're going to see," Washington said. "Obviously."
The Lions defeated UTEP, 85-77, and LSU, 90-80, to get here. The Huskies have been more convincing, beating Prairie View A&M, 83-47, and Kansas State, 72-26.
"They're a very high-powered offensive team," Washington said. "So, certainly, the most balanced team we will have seen all year, in terms of a team that can score and also play really good defense. They present problems on both ends of the floor."
That's why, sophomore guard Maggie Lucas said, backcourt play for the Lions will be crucial.
"They're going to be ready to 'D' us up. They've proven they can put the handcuffs on people," she said. "We've got to stick to our offensive game plan, whatever (Coach Washington) draws up."