Let me preface this by saying I'm no Coquese Washington. She is the coach of Penn State, and she knows better than anyone else how the No. 4-seeded Lady Lions can beat No. 1 UConn in the Sweet 16 on Sunday. Still, it's fun to speculate. Based on my observations of Penn State all season and my knowledge of UConn, here are five ways the Lions can overtake the Huskies tomorrow and advance to the Elite 8. They should probably try to hit at least three of them if they want to have a shot.
1. Play naturally, but enter the game with multiple strategies. Move the ball quickly down the court, but still be patient at the same time. Don't take unnecessary or contested jump shots with time on the shot clock. It's a waste of a possession. Wait for the best look, and then take it. Don't get frustrated if UConn foils some possessions. If a strategy doesn't seem to be working, try something else. Too many times this season that has happened, and the Lions' offense has fallen into anarchy. The offense needs to know exactly what they're going to do before most possessions because most of the time they're not going to outrun UConn.
2. Don't let the first half get away. If UConn is ahead by more than 10 at the first buzzer, the game will be all but out of hand. Analyzing a team's gameplay in realtime is a luxury Penn State can't really afford with UConn. The Huskies are too explosive of an offense and too stifling of a defense to allow for any extreme comebacks. With that in mind, don't be afraid to call two timeouts in the first half. If the Lions look rattled, settle them down. They haven't really seen a team like this all season, and the initial shock of playing the Huskies in what is essentially a home game for them may come fast.
3. Use Maggie Lucas as a dagger for UConn, not as life support for Penn State. Lucas adds energy to this team and this fan base like nobody else. Even if she is shut down for most of the game, she will find a way to score some points. Chances are those points will come at an ideal time. This time cannot panic if Lucas is ineffective for the majority of this game. Geno Auriemma is fully aware of how good of a shooter she is. There is a good chance he will have someone drape her and she will be unable to get off a decent shot. But if Penn State can stick with the Huskies without Lucas being the go-to option early, she will find a shot eventually. Then... well, a dagger only needs to be used once. Until then, as Washington said earlier in the week, "Distribute the wealth."
4. Have faith in Bentley as point guard, and Bentley, ascend. She is one of the best point guards in this game. Her speed is incredible and she is an extremely talented passer. She has struggled to make the jump shot at times in recent games, however, but that has never stopped her from trying. There is no doubt she can do it, but if she's cold from that range early then she needs to limit her attempts until her shots start falling. Bentley knows how good UConn is, and she is a leader of this team. With that in mind, it would help greatly if she just exploded Sunday and had the best game of her career. It could potentially set the upset in motion.
5. Keep Nikki Greene in the game and find her. Another major player who could be a game changer with an explosion. First, she needs to stay in the game. Her potential replacements are Marissa Wolfe, Talia East and Tori Waldner. None of those three will be able to match up with UConn sophomore center Stefanie Dolson as well as Greene. It's hard to ask Nikki Greene not to foul occasionally because (based off the look on her face whenever a foul is called against her) she rarely agrees with the ref. When Dolson has the ball, she's going to post up hard on Greene. Greene has been going straight up on this type of offense to prevent personals. She wants to Dolson to drive into her or fadeaway, which would constitute legal defense. But if Dolson can nail the acting gig to an extent, the refs are going to side with her and call the foul on Greene. In conclusion, there's going to be a certain aspect of luck involved in keeping Greene on the floor. But it's essential for Penn State to maximize her minutes.