Kingston, R.I. - In the old days, Geno Auriemma would relax in the bar of the team hotel the night before a game, sip some wine and perhaps puff on a cigar, entertaining groups of people with stories, one-liners and streams of consciousness.
His list of greatest hits surely includes basketball on Geno's Perfect Plane: the old Edmonton Oilers. Auriemma would think nothing of sending hockey and basketball into a crossing pattern, speaking reverently of how Gretzky, Coffey and the Oilers mastered the concepts of constant movement and effortless, ceaseless offense.
Move without the ball, but move the ball quickly. Everyone moving at once, rhythmic, like Broadway's choreography.
Yet today, as the Huskies embark on their 19th straight season in the Sweet 16, they aren't the Oilers so much anymore. Or at least this year. Now they're closer to the Steel Curtain. More pressing, more games in the 50s and 60s. Defense, defense, defense, nowhere evidenced more than the 26 points they allowed in the second round Monday night against Kansas State.
If nothing else, it proves Auriemma's program to be resourceful. There's more than one way to win.
And that's the goal today at the palatial Ryan Center at the University of Rhode Island, site of UConn-Penn State for a berth in the Elite Eight. The winner gets the winner of the No. 2 Kentucky/No. 11 Gonzaga game Tuesday to go to the Final Four.
The Huskies have drawn an interesting assignment, a team that averages 76.2 points per game, wins games on the road and prefers a quick pace. "They like to get as many possessions as they can," Auriemma said Saturday.
It's easier to achieve with guards Maggie Lucas (19.2 points per game), Alex Bentley (14.4) and Zhaque Gray (10.7).
"We like to get it going in transition," Bentley said. "UConn likes to get it going in transition as well. So it might be an up and down game."
Funny, though, how so many teams who are willing to go up and down with the Huskies end up in the 50s at the end.
This is Penn State's first appearance in the Sweet 16 since 2004 and first under fifth-year coach Coquese Washington, a former assistant coach under Muffet McGraw at Notre Dame.
"When you grow up a Catholic kid in Philly, there are two things you get sick of hearing about," Auriemma said. "Notre Dame and Penn State."
Auriemma, noting that Washington also coached at Notre Dame, cracked, "Coquese has major issues with me right now."
It's clear Auriemma admires where the fifth-seeded Lions (26-6) are headed. The school recently agreed to play a series in the regular season.
"You want to prepare yourself for the NCAA tournament," Washington said. "Do what you've got to do to play teams in other conferences and get a feel for what other conferences do. Connecticut is a good East Coast match for us."