Today's semifinal

March 31, 2000|By Christian Ewell

Penn State (30-4) vs. Connecticut (34-1)

Time: 9 p.m.

Site: Philadelphia

Conference Records: Penn State won the Big Ten Conference title with a 14-1 record; Connecticut won the Big East crown with a 16-0 record.

Coaches: Rene Portland, 553-184 in 24 seasons, 466-155 in 20 seasons at Penn State; Geno Auriemma, 393-95 in 15 seasons, all at Connecticut.

Starting Lineups:

Penn State: F Maren Walseth (13.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg), F Andrea Garner (14.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg), G Helen Darling (10.7 ppg, 7.7 apg), G Chrissy Falcone (7.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg), G Lisa Shepherd (12.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg); Connecticut: G Sue Bird (10.9 ppg, 4.3 apg, .496 3-pt FG pct.), G Shea Ralph (14.4 ppg, 4.9 apg, .621 FG Pct.), C Kelly Schumacher (5.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 15.4 min. a game), F Svetlana Abrosimova (13.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 4.2 apg), F Swin Cash (10.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg).

Bench Strength: The Huskies have more quality beyond the starting five than any other team in the country. Reserves Ashja Jones and Tamika Williams each scored 16 points in the team's regional win over Oklahoma.

Key Matchups: Bird and Ralph form the best backcourt in the country, but will be tested by Darling, a Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award winner, and Lisa Shepard, who had a strong regional.

What Penn State must do to win: Taking care of the ball is one way to prevent the easy baskets that have contributed to Connecticut's 54 percent shooting, the nation's best. The Nittany Lions also need to get the ball past halfcourt in a timely fashion if they hope to get worthwhile shots.

What Connecticut must do to win: Run. While the team does a lot of things well, its specialty is scoring points in transition, whether off turnovers it forces or missed baskets by the opponent.

Bottom Line: Beating Connecticut requires efforts -- overcoming the Huskies' depth, controlling tempo, staying close -- that are almost always easier said than done, and it will probably be that way for Penn State.

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