STORRS – For the second game in a row, the No. 2 Connecticut women faced a tough test against a worthy opponent, but the Huskies were able to pull away late in the game with a 67–52 win over No. 10 Penn State.
Although UConn (8-0) was able to walk away with a 15 point victory, the Huskies did not gain a substantial lead until about midway through the second half. It took a 20-6 run that lasted six minutes, 47 seconds in the second half before the Huskies could get some breathing room over the Lady Lions.
“We were just looking for a spurt,” said coach Geno Auriemma, referring to the lack of offensive production. “We were looking for one, two or three minute stretch there where we would go on a little bit of a run and we got it. I think that kind of turned the game into the way we wanted it to be played.”
The focus of the game’s offense was on Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who led the Huskies with a season-high 25 points, just two points shy of her career-high. Mosqueda-Lewis did not play in the second half on Monday’s game against No. 9 Maryland due to a contusion on her left quad. Some questioned Mosqueda-Lewis’ ability to play in the game, but she started for the Huskies and added five rebounds and four steals to her 25 points.
“It felt really good today at shoot around, so I’m happy that I was able to come out there and perform and help my team out,” said Mosqueda-Lewis, who had been working with the team trainer for the past few days to help rehab her leg.
“You don’t expect any less; that’s what she does,” Brianna Banks said of Mosqueda-Lewis’ performance. “That’s her role on the team. Whenever we need a bucket we look at (Mosqueda-Lewis).”
Banks played 18 minutes off of the bench, scoring 10 points and grabbing two rebounds and two steals. One of her two steals was the catalyst for the run by UConn as Banks, Mosqueda-Lewis and Moriah Jefferson each recorded a steal on three straight possessions for Penn State (6-2).
According to coach Coquese Washington, that is when the game got out of hand for Penn State.
“We didn’t play smart,” Washington said. “We didn’t make as many wise decisions as we should have during that stretch. Certainly UConn is a tough defensive team, but I thought fatigue set in at that stretch.”
Fatigue may have been a factor for both teams in this physical game. For UConn, this was the second game in a row where they faced a tough defense.
“With all the good offensive weapons we have on this team I think people are going to have to be super aggressive and try to take us out any way they can,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “We’re going to have to stay strong and stay smart.”
Apart from Mosqueda-Lewis, Banks was the only other player to score in double digits for the Huskies. Breanna Stewart scored a season-low seven points and only played seven minutes in the second half.
“Breanna Stewart has got to be stronger,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “She’s got to be one of our backbones. She’s learning, she’s going to come back and she’s going to do fine.”
Neither team shot particularly well in the game. UConn shot 41.1 percent from the field, their second-lowest shooting percentage this season and Penn State shot 33.9 percent from the field. Maggie Lucas led the way for Penn State, scoring a team-high 15 points and grabbing four rebounds.
“I don’t think there’s one blueprint way to beat Connecticut,” Washington said. “I think they’re a very good team and you got to play your game, whatever your game is and execute your game plan.”