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Penn State cruises in opener over Hampton

3/22/2004

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) -- Penn State lived up to its top billing
and had its way with Hampton.

The No. 1 seed in the NCAA East Regional moved on to the second
round with an easy 79-42 victory on Sunday.

The Lady Lions (26-5) will have to work a little harder on
Tuesday night when they take on eighth-seeded Virginia Tech on its
home floor, but guard Jess Strom said she and her teammates welcome
the challenge.

Virginia Tech (23-7) beat Iowa 89-76 in the early game Sunday.

"We've played a lot of tough teams from the Big Ten on their
home court, so I think we'll be ready," Strom said.

Penn State's 15-1 conference record suggests she might be right.

Penn State was trying to shake off a loss to Purdue in the Big
Ten tournament championship, and got started right away. The Lady
Lions ran off 22 points in the first half to open a 29-6 lead.

"I think it was a combination of defense and us attacking on
offense," said Kelly Mazzante, who led the Lady Lions with 18
points in 26 minutes. "We understood that this game was all about
us."

The Lady Pirates (17-13), meanwhile, were 0-for-6 from the field
in their 8{-minutes of misery with 10 turnovers. They trailed 47-14
by halftime and met the same fate as in their first two NCAA
tournament appearances: a 116-45 loss to Connecticut in 2000 and a
90-46 loss to Texas a year ago.

Still, coach Patricia Cage-Bibbs praised her team for playing
hard to the end and said she doesn't feel like her program has a
long way to go before expecting to put up a better fight against
basketball's best.

"I think what they did today, they didn't give up an they kept
fighting and I'm absolutely so proud of them," Cage-Bibbs said of
the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament champions.

"To get from 16 to 1, that's a long way to go," she said.

Mazzante, the Big Ten's career scoring leader, had plenty of
help from the Lady Lions as coach Rene Portland used 10 players and
all scored. Tanisha Wright added 16 points and 10 rebounds and
Strom scored 14.

Lynetta Sullivan led Hampton with eight points, but on 3-for-12
shooting, and Kiesha Beard had seven, missing 12 of her 15 shots.

The Lady Pirates shot 16-for-60 (26.7 percent).

Portland gave her players five days off after the Big Ten
tournament, and they didn't return to practice until Tuesday. They
also worked out Wednesday and Thursday in State College, Pa.,
before traveling here.

With their seeding viewed as a nice reward for their season,
they were eager to get back on the court and show they deserved it,
Mazzante said.

"We were eager to get out there and perform," she said. "It
was a good example of how good we are, but we can show that we're a
lot better."

Penn State, playing as a No. 1 seed for the third time in its
history, has advanced to the regional semifinals the past two
years, and Portland said she's not crazy about the system that
finds the Lady Lions on the home court of a lower seed, but isn't
fussing.

"We have been on both sides of it," she said.