Neither coach happy with officiating as Connecticut outlasts Penn State 67-52

An average Connecticut women’s basketball game this season includes 132 combined points, 27 total fouls, and 37 turnovers.

An average Penn State women’s basketball game this season includes 135 combined points, 37 total fouls, and 39 turnovers.

Last night, when the two Top Ten-ranked teams met at Gampel Pavilion, the game produced 119 total points, 38 total fouls, and 46 turnovers. The result of an inconsistently officiated, physical game that left both coach Coquese Washington of Penn State and Geno Auriemma of Connecticut exasperated by the lack of flow and frequency of whistles.

“I expected to come in here and the game be competitive,” said Washington. “I didn’t think the referees called the game like there were two Top Ten teams playing on the floor, and I think that’s unfortunate. I don’t think the fans and anybody watching on TV got to see the kind of basketball that both teams are capable of playing because of the way the game was called and because of the physical play, and that’s unfortunate.”

Auriemma, who picked up his first technical foul of the season after a particularly questionable foul 30 seconds into the second half on center Stefanie Dolson, concurred, expanding his criticism to officiating throughout women’s basketball.

“I know two of those guys did the game last night, the Baylor-Notre Dame game, so maybe they were suffering jet lag, I don’t know,” he said. “I just think we have some real issues in women’s basketball and unless they get addressed, you’re going to see more of these games and that’s not fair.”

Unfortunately, the result was a game that did not feature the players themselves.

Connecticut had the one real bright spot, as Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who was questionable to even play with a bruised leg, showed the expansion of her game, pouring in 25 points in a variety of ways, including hitting four of her trademark three-pointers. Auriemma, however, also recognized the strength advantage Mosqueda-Lewis had when defended by Penn State’s guards, and put her in the low post on several occasions, where she either made shots or was fouled.

Brianna Banks continued her strong play off the bench, contributing ten points and combining with Moriah Jefferson to key a run that broke open the game in the second half.

“We trapped a lot more [in the second half],” said Banks, “with a lot more intensity.”

The consistent results from Banks may be surprising to some, but not to the sophomore. “I’ve just been working hard, and it’s starting to show. I didn’t work that hard for nothing, so I’ve just got to get out there and show what I’ve been working on. I just learned from last year, and I’ve picked it up this year.”

The game also marked the strongest game to date for UConn All-American guard Bria Hartley. While still not hitting shots at the percentage she would like, her ball handling and leadership on the court were crucial with the other chaos surrounding her. Auriemma addressed Hartley’s improvement in the video below:

For the Lions, star backcourt tandem Maggie Lucas and Alex Bentley struggled against the Husky defense, and despite Washington’s comments to the contrary, seemed frustrated with the officiating. Both had extended discussions with officials about calls that were or were not made during the game. The duo has accounted for 44 percent of Penn State’s scoring, and while they did combine for 42 percent last night, it was on 6-of-23 shooting (1-of-11 from Bentley). Add in the 3-of-14 shooting of third guard Dara Taylor, and the Penn State guards combined to shoot 24 percent from the field, taking 37 of the team’s 59 shots.

Penn State forward Mia Nickson, who was their best performer against UConn in last year’s NCAA tournament game again was impressive against the Huskies, putting in eight points and adding eight rebounds.

In the end though, the depth of Connecticut was a difference maker. While Auriemma commented that he is struggling to find the right mix of minutes and combinations, Washington said a major reason for the success of Jefferson and Banks was fatigue from her players, as Penn State only went seven players deep in such a physical game.

Penn State gets a chance at a quick turnaround, but it will not be easy as they will host another aggressive Big East team, Georgetown, on Sunday. UConn has a break for exams, and will not play again until December 19, when Oakland (Michigan) comes to Hartford.

Other Top 25 Results from Thursday

(4) Duke 85, Georgia Tech 52
(9) Maryland 79, Virginia 55
(13) Oklahoma 71, North Texas 68
(15) Purdue 69, IPFW 54
(16) Oklahoma State 85, Stephen F. Austin 41
Arkansas 64, (17) Kansas 56
Iowa 50, (22) Iowa State 42

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