The No. 4 seed Penn State Lady Lions (26-7, 13-3) suffered a 77-59 loss to No. 1 seed Connecticut (32-4, 13-3 Big East) on Sunday evening to end the 2012 season and their NCAA run. Junior Mia Nickson (Ashburn, Va.) was Penn State’s leading scorer with 19 points.
This was Penn State’s first visit to the Sweet Sixteen since 2004 when the Lady Lions advanced to the Elite Eight, but also saw their season ended in a 66-49 setback to UConn. Penn State is now 3-7 all-time versus the Huskies, 4-8 in the Sweet Sixteen and 29-23 overall in NCAA Tournament play.
Sophomore Maggie Lucas (Narberth, Pa.) was second on the squad with 15 points, while junior Alex Bentley (Indianapolis, Ind.) tallied 11. Defensively, sophomore Talia East (Philadelphia, Pa.) posted 10 rebounds and Nickson registered five.
The Huskies grabbed a 6-2 lead to start the game before fouling Bentley who hit two at the foul line to close the gap to two, 6-4. UConn followed with a 10-2 run for a 14-4 lead and sent Penn State to the bench for a timeout. East followed the timeout with a layup, but two UConn buckets sandwiching a Nickson basket kept the Huskies leading by 10, 18-8, a little less than five minutes into the half.
UConn continued to charge moving ahead by 14, 24-10, by the 11:23 mark. The Lady Lions fought back with a 9-0 run, including three-pointers from Lucas and senior Zhaque Gray (Chicago, Ill.), to come within five, 24-19. After a Husky timeout, UConn’s Tiffany Hayes hit a jumper. However, Caroline Doty fouled Nickson who made two free throws to bring Penn State back within five, 26-21.
The Lady Lions fell behind by double-digits, 33-23, after a 7-2 Husky run. Despite a three from UConn’s Bria Hartley, Penn State was within nine, 36-27, thanks to baskets from sophomore Ariel Edwards (Elmont, N.Y.) and Bentley with just over three minutes left in the half. Five points from UConn had the Lions falling behind by 14, 41-27. Nickson prevented another Husky run with a jumper, but a PSU foul sent UConn’s Hayes to the line where she made both shots giving UConn a 43-29 lead to close out the first half.
At the end of the first half, Nickson led the Lady Lions with nine points, while Lucas had seven and Bentley had six. East was Penn State’s leading rebounder with five. The Huskies opened the second half with 10 straight points, but Hayes fouled Edwards who hit two shots at the foul line to end UConn’s run. Trailing by22, 53-31, Lucas nailed a three-pointer at the 15:51 mark to bring Penn State within 19, 53-34. Hartley fouled Lucas who hit two free throws before a Nickson layup to move Penn State closer to UConn, 53-38.
After two UConn baskets, both teams were scoreless for nearly three minutes before back-to-back buckets by the Huskies hard the score at 61-38 with 10:13 to play. Penn State called a timeout and Nickson followed with scored two to end the Husky run. UConn’s lead grew to 16, 66-40, but Nickson and East prevented a Husky run with a basket each bringing the score to 68-44 with a little more than seven minutes remaining.
Nickson continued to be Penn State’s dominant scorer with another bucket at the 6:45 mark. UConn fired back with four points before Penn State scored 10 unanswered points to close the gap to 19, 74-55, with the clock at 4:20. UConn’s next three points came from free throws, making it 77-55 in favor of the Huskies. East and Nickson scored Penn State’s final two baskets to produce the final score of 77-59.