IOWA CITY — You wouldn’t blame Penn State’s Ariel Edwards if she wanted to play against Iowa all of the time.
One season after posting a 17-point, 11- rebound performance, Edwards was pestering the Hawkeyes, again.
Edwards came off the bench to score 15 points in 18 minutes as the No. 8 Lady Lions pulled away to an 81-69 victory at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday.
Maggie Lucas’ 21 points led four players in double figures as Penn State (21-3 overall, 11-1 conference) maintained its two-game lead in the Big Ten standings. Alex Bentley and Mia Nickson added 14 and 11 points, respectively.
The Hawkeyes (16-10, 5-7) led by as many as five points in the first half before Penn State overcame cold shooting to grab a 37-34 halftime lead.
Iowa scored the first four points of the second half to take the lead, but over the next 13 minutes it was all Penn State. Edwards had four points early in a 14-2 run that put Penn State ahead for good.
“She came off the bench and gave us great production in the minutes she was out there,” Washington said of Edwards. “I mean 15 points in 18 minutes, that’s pretty efficient. She was aggressive right from the beginning of the game.”
Since Edwards is coming off the bench, Washington said team’s forget about the versatile junior.
“She’s somebody that isn’t accounted for heavily in the scouting report,” Washington said. “When you have Maggie and Alex and Nikki (Greene) and Mia, you might not get down far enough to worrying about Ariel Edwards. She’s capable of having big games.”
Iowa never got closer than 58-48 the rest of the way. Penn State used a 17-6 run against the tiring Hawkeyes to push the margin to 75-54 on Dara Taylor’s layup with 5:07 left.
“I think we did wear them down a little bit,” Washington said. “I thought the first half they were substituting a lot to try to stay fresh and that worked a little bit. They got into foul trouble in the second half so that hurt their rotation a little bit.”
Greene, who played just six minutes in the first half, was key to bottling up Iowa’s top scorer Morgan Johnson, who gave backups Talia East, Tori Waldner and Candice Agee fits at times. Johnson had just two baskets while Penn State was pulling away.
“Nikki is a tough defender,” Washington said. “She’s played against her before. Johnson is a really good post player. She’s crafty and she’s smart. She was able to get some things against Tori, Talia and Candice that she wasn’t able to do against Nikki. Having Nikki out there in the second half certainly helped our defense.”
The Lady Lions shot 51.6 percent in the second half to finish at 42 percent (29 of 62 for the game).
Lucas started slowly, going 1 for 6 early, but finished 7 of 15 from the floor, including 3 of 6 from 3-point range.
“She got some great looks early, but they just didn’t fall,” Washington said of Lucas. “She stayed poised and confident and she got the same looks later and the game and they fell for her.”
Johnson led Iowa, which has lost five straight, with 17 points, while Bethany Doolittle added 13. Jaime Printy, the Hawkeyes’ second leading scorer, was held to two points, 12 below her average.
Penn State gets a welcome bye this Sunday before returning to action Wednesday with a home game against Illinois.
“We had our break in early January,” Washington said. “Not only have we been going about six weeks straight now, but we had two weeks where we played three games in one week. We’ve been tested. To get a bye this week, it’s good timing.”
She said she is proud of the way her team has handled a demanding schedule.
“Nobody is going to feel sorry for you. You’ve got to go out there and play hard and execute,” Washington said. “For the most, it’s a grind. You talk to every coach in America and they’ll tell you it’s a grind, It’s non-stop. I’ve been pleased with our ability to handle the grind.”
Notes: Lucas moved into eighth place on Penn State’s career scoring chart (1,669), passing teammate Alex Bentley and Lisa Shepherd, both with 1,663 points. ... Penn State is 11-1 in the Big Ten for the first time since 2003. ... Nickson also moved into 24th place on Penn State’s career rebounding list (569), passing Kelly Mazzante.