When senior guard Maggie Lucas missed her first free throw of the season midway through the first half on Sunday, the crowd gasped in unison.
The 89 percent career shooter’s miss from the charity stripe would end up being an omen for things to come for the rest of the afternoon against No. 1 Connecticut (4-0).
The No. 13 Lady Lions (2-1) fell to the Huskies, 71-52, in a game of streaks and solid defense.
UConn took its first swing at a run in the first half with the scored knotted at 10. The Huskies proceeded to go on a 17-2 run.
Penn State could not get anything going from the field during the eight-minute span.
“They play great defense. We got away from our offense and executing,” Lucas said.
In the first half, Lucas along with her teammates struggled, shooting just 27 percent.
Midway through the second half, the Lions heated up just when the game seemed to be getting out of hand.
Down by 23 points, Lucas began one last effort to cut the lead with a 3-pointer. From there, Penn State went on an 11-3 run to be down by only 15.
“I think we just zeroed in,” senior forward Talia East said. “Something I think we should have been doing consistently throughout the game.”
With five minutes left to play, the Lions continued to chip away as UConn led by just nine.
The crowd at the Bryce Jordan Center was ecstatic.
Even with the encouragement of the fans, nine points was the closest the deficit ever got as Penn State could not completely close the gap.
“When you get yourself in a hole like that against a great team, it’s hard to get yourself out of it,” Lucas said.
There were many positives taken from the game from coach’s and players’ perspectives.
The 71 points allowed by Penn State was the fewest it has let up all season.
“I thought we played fairly well,” coach Coquese Washington said. “We felt like we could defend them a little better in the zone and I thought for the most part we did.”
The physicality of Penn State’s play on the defensive end caused fits for UConn as it was forced to take shots outside of the paint.
“It was difficult for us to really establish some stuff in the lane because they do a pretty good job of clogging that up,” Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. “They’re one of the more physical teams we play against.”
Losing is never fun, but with the season being as young as it is, the Lions are not worried.
Washington said the four freshmen that entered the game were “big time wide-eyed.”
“I saw a lot of hesitation and indecisiveness and that leads to inefficiencies and ineffectiveness on the offensive end,” Washington said.
Chemistry among the players still hasn’t reached the point where Washington and the players want it to be either.
However, it is just the third game of the year that the five starters have played with one another.
“There’s going to be ups and downs and zigs when we should’ve zagged and zonged when we should’ve zinged,” Washington said. “They’re still learning how to play together and play as a unit.”
Mike Kilcoyne can be reached at email@example.com or (814) 865-1828. Follow him on Twitter at @mjkilcoyne3.