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#1 UConn tops Lady Lions

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The #15/13 Penn State Lady Lions (2-1, 0-0 Big Ten) struggle from the field, but still managed to make it a nine-point game with five minutes left, but the top-ranked Connecticut Huskies (3-0, 0-0 AAC) pulled away late earned a 71-52 win Sunday in front of 8,194 fans at the Bryce Jordan Center. The loss snaps Penn State's 22-game home court winning streak, which was tied for the third-longest in NCAA Division I.

Senior guard Maggie Lucas' (Narberth, Pa.) tallied 18 points and five steals to become the sixth player in Lady Lion history to eclipse the 1,900-point mark. Lucas now has 1,912 points in her career and passed former Penn State standout Suzie McConnell (1,897) for sixth place on the career scoring list with her performance today. Additionally, Lucas made four shots from three-point range to become just the second player in Big Ten history with 300 three-pointers (Kelly Mazzante).

Junior forward/center Tori Waldner (Milton, Ga.) had a career afternoon with a personal-best 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting. She surpasses her previous career mark of seven points, which in a win over Farleigh Dickinson on Dec. 2, 2102. Waldner also added seven boards and two blocks to complete her day. Fellow post player Talia East (Philadelphia, Pa.) also had a solid outing with eight points and a team-high 10 rebounds. She also rejected four shots on the day to move into a tie for 18th in program history with Tanisha Wright (61).

Penn State won the opening tip and scored the game's opening points on its first possession off a nice jump hook from Waldner. After a number of missed opportunities from both sides, the Huskies' Bria Hartley forced a turnover and finished a fastbreak layup to even the score at 2-2 with 17:19 on the clock.

Over the next five minutes of action, each team scored eight points and the game was once again level at 10-10. Four different players scored for the Lady Lions as Lucas and Dara Taylor (Wilmington, Del.), hit jumpers and Kaliyah Mitchell (Stone Mountain, Ga.) and East both went 2-for-2 from the line. During the next four minutes of play, Connecticut took over, reeling off 12-straight points to make the score 22-10 with 8:23 left in the first frame.

Lucas ended the Huskies' run by converting two-of-three free throws to draw the Blue and White back within 10 (22-12), but UConn responded by scoring the next five points to increase its lead to 27-12 with less than five minutes remaining in the half.

Both the Lady Lions and the Huskies scored 10 points in the last four and a half minutes of the first to send the teams into the break with Connecticut holding a 37-22 lead. PSU's frontcourt was responsible for all 10 of the Lady Lions' points to finish the opening 20 minutes. East hit two jumpers in the paint for four points, while Waldner, Candice Agee (Victorville, Calif.) and Ariel Edwards (Elmont, N.Y.) each chipped in two.

Like the first half, Waldner was the first player of either side to score in the second stanza, as the junior finished at the rim to trim the Huskies' lead to 13 (37-24) coming out of the break. After Waldner's layup, UConn once again went on a 15-5 run to push its lead to 23 (52-29), its largest of the afternoon, but the Lady Lions refused to go down without a fight

The Lady Lions roared back and cut the Connecticut lead to single digits at 57-48 with five and a half minutes remaining thanks to a 19-5 run. Taylor started the rally by hitting her only trey of the afternoon. A Waldner layup and Lucas triple paired with two blocks from East on the defensive end quickly cut the score to 15 (52-37). After a UConn make from beyond the arc by Hartley, Waldner answered with her first career three-pointer, followed by a jumper from Taylor to get the lead down to 13 (42-55) and force a Husky timeout. After a make from UConn's Breanna Stewart, Lucas connected on back-to-back threes to make it a nine-point game (57-48) to send the raucous BJC crowd into a frenzy with 5:31 left. However, that is as close as the Lions would get as UConn closed the game with a 14-4 run for the 71-52 win.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times