Maggie Lucas couldn’t believe it.
After having opposing defenses harass her at nearly every opportunity, Lucas kept finding herself wide open against Georgetown’s zone Sunday.
The junior wasn’t about to let that rare opportunity go to waste. Lucas set a Bryce Jordan Center record with 39 points and tied the Jordan Center mark with seven 3-pointers in a 97-74 romp.
Alex Bentley added 23 points and four assists as the No. 10 Lady Lions (7-2) rebounded from Thursday’s 67-52 loss to No. 2 Connecticut by pounding the Hoyas (7-3), a team that was ranked in the preseason Top 25.
Lucas single-handedly outscored Georgetown in the first half, netting 26 points as the Lady Lions raced to a 53-25 halftime lead. She was 8-for-16 from the field, including 5-for-10 from 3-point range, in the half. She benefited as Bentley and Dara Taylor perforated the Hoya zone and kicked to an open Lucas camped out behind the 3-point line.
It was a sharp contrast to Thursday’s clash as UConn’s Kelly Faris seemed surgically attached to Lucas.
“We talked about it a little bit leading up to the game that the corners were going to be open,” said Lucas, who tied Angie Potthoff for the third-highest scoring game in program history. “If we move the ball faster, there’s going to be openings. It was a little shocking that I got that many off. It was nice to have some openings.”
Bentley said it became a no-brainer on where to direct the offense.
“I’m always like, ‘More Maggie. Keep getting her that rock,’” Bentley said. “I’m always looking for her, especially when she’s hot. That girl can shoot.”
Georgetown actually led 9-8 early in the contest, but Lucas scored eight points in a 10-0 run that gave Penn State the lead for good at 18-9 with 14:09 left in the half. After a Georgetown 3-pointer, Lucas knocked down three 3-pointers in a 15-0 run that started the romp. The Lady Lions led by as many as 34 points (51-17) in the half.
“They did a great job of penetrating and kicking to her,” Georgetown coach Keith Brown said. “... They did a wonderful job of spreading us out with the penetration from Bentley, and Taylor did a good job also. We were trying to help with our bigs and we were leaving one of the best shooters in the country open and she caught fire.”
Penn State coach Coquese Washington hoped that would happen, given what she and her staff saw on film of the Hoyas.
“Georgetown is a zone team,” Washington explained. “Coming into the game, we thought that she would get some looks. We wanted to make sure we moved the ball around and make the zone work and shift. I thought the team did a good job of finding Maggie. She’s just such a good shooter. When she gets that wide open, she’s going to make a lot of them.”
Penn State also did an excellent job on defense in the half. Taylor and Ariel Edwards held the Hoyas’ Sugar Edwards, a scorer every bit as prolific as Lucas, to 4-for-10 shooting in the half. Edwards finished with 24 points on 8-for-22 shooting.
“We focused on eliminating her touches and making it difficult for her the whole night,” Edwards said. “I think we did that. For the most part, we did a pretty good job on her.”
As a team, Georgetown was 9-for-34 in the first half as Penn State played a dominating 20 minutes.
“I think it’s the best half we played all year,” Bentley said. “We’re going to try to keep that up for (Coquese) and put that first half into the second half, too, so we can play 40 minutes that way.”
“That was the team and the way that I’ve been looking for us to play — with that level of effort, energy and focus defensively and that defense turning into opportunities for us to get going in transition and get some great looks,” Washington said.
With the game firmly in hand, the big question in the second half was whether Lucas would threaten Kelly Mazzante’s school record of 49 points. Lucas shot just five times in the second half, making three. She finished 7-of-13 from 3-point range.
Bentley also did plenty of damage. Coming off a 1-for-11 performance at UConn, she was 8-for-14 from the floor and netted a season-high 23.
“When you’re playing a team like that .... we can’t let their go-to players get away and that’s what we did,” Brown said. “Bentley and Maggie went off today.”
Edwards added 11 points as 9 of 10 Lady Lions scored. Nikki Greene led all players with 13 rebounds. Lucas added a career-high six steals and Taylor led all players with five assists.
Penn State next plays at Virginia Tech at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.