While she didn’t have the quantity of shots she usually gets, Penn State guard Maggie Lucas made up for it with quality.
Lucas, facing defenses designed specifically to slow her, scored 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting as she led the No. 11 Lady Lions to a 60-41 victory over Virginia Tech on Wednesday at Cassell Coliseum for Coach Coquese Washington’s 100th career win..
Dara Taylor tied a season-high with 15 points, while Mia Nickson and Alex Bentley added 10 each for Penn State (8-2), which held the Hokies (4-4) to 26 percent shooting for the game.
Virginia Tech was determined not to let Lucas go wild as she did in a 39-point outburst in Sunday’s 97-74 victory over Georgetown. The Hokies played a box-and-one defense on Lucas most of game, having one defender chasing the Penn State guard, while the other four played a zone. The Hokies also played a triangle-and-two defense, with two defenders playing man-to-man against Lucas and Bentley, while the others played zone.
“They weren’t going to let Maggie get going,” Washington said. “They did a good job of slowing the game down. That’s kind of what they do if you look at the scores they’ve had this year. They’re a pretty good defensive team and they slow the ball down and use the whole shot clock. You don’t get as many possessions.”
The defenses worked in limiting Lucas’ attempts and aside from Taylor the rest of the Penn State lineup struggled.
Taylor’s 3-pointer about four minutes into the game gave Penn State the lead for good at 5-4, but Virginia Tech was within a basket for most of the half. Lucas had six points in a 12-5 run that pushed Penn State’s lead to 26-17 before the Lady Lions settled for a 28-21 halftime lead.
Penn State shot just 11 for 32 for the first 20 minutes and Washington was disappointed with her team’s shot selection.
“We were settling for outside shots. When you face a junk defense — a box-in-one or a triangle-and-two — they lull you into taking the shots they want,” she said. “As the game went on and in the second half, we did a better job of executing our offense — taking mid-range shots or attacking the basket.”
Penn State opened the second half with a 10-5 run and maintained a double-digit lead from there. The Hokies were within 49-37 with five minutes remaining, until an 11-0 run by Penn State finished them off. Nickson had the first five points in the outburst, while Lucas, Bentley and Taylor followed with baskets to push the lead to 60-37 with 1:41 left. Penn State made 43 percent (12 of 28) of its shots in the second half.
Lucas missed just one shot in each half as she raised her shooting percentage to exactly 50 percent on the season.
“I thought she has done a really good job all year of trying to be patient offensively and just waiting for her moments and opportunities,” Washington said. “I think it’s a tremendous testament to her patience when she can come off a game of scoring 39, face a box-and-one and a triangle-and-two and still score 17 points on nine shots. That just speaks to her patience and her intelligence as a player. She’s not going to let the defense dictate what she does. She going to make sure she gets the shots she wants.”
Taylor also shot well, making 6 of 10. She entered the contest 1 of 14 from 3-point range, but nailed 3 of 6 attempts against the Hokies.
“Dara is a very good shooter, but she is a kid who would prefer to pass it,” Washington said. “She can make shots.”
Nickson grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to finish with a double-double. Bentley added five steals and four assists.
Monet Tellier had 18 points and was the lone Virginia Tech player to score in double figures. The Hokies, who scored just 28 points in a loss to Penn State last season, made just 14 of 54 attempts.
Washington improved to 100-69 in her sixth season as she joined Rene Portland as the only coaches in program history to hit the 100-win plateau.
“I’m just glad we got a win against Virginia Tech,” she said of the milestone. “... It’s a good quality road win and winning games on the road isn’t easy. We kind of grinded it out and we’ll take it.
“You’ve got to be able to win games in different ways,” she added. “Yeah, it would be great to come out every game and start with a 25-0 run and coast to victory, but that’s not the reality. The reality is you’re going to play different teams, different styles, on the road. You’re going to struggle offensively and sometimes defensively. If you have the patience, confidence and wherewithal to fight that stuff and still come away with a win, it’s still going to help us somewhere down the road.”
Notes: Penn State improved to 3-0 all-time against Virginia Tech. ... With her first basket, Lucas reached the 1,400-point mark for her career. She now has 1,415. She also tied Jess Strom for fourth on the school’s career list with 525 3-pointers. ... Bentley surpassed 250 steals for her career and now has 253.