For 20 minutes Sunday, Penn State’s shooting percentage was even colder than the temperatures outside Georgetown’s McDonough Arena.
But for the final half, it was if the Lady Lions were in balmy Florida.
Led by milestone-reaching Maggie Lucas, No. 10 Penn State (6-2) shot a blistering 68 percent in the second half as the Lady Lions turned back Georgetown 77-68.
Lucas scored a game-high 30 points and became just the fifth player in program history to reach 2,000 career points. Lucas, who nailed five 3-pointers Sunday, now has 2,008 career points as she joined Kelly Mazante (2,919), Susan Robinson (2,253), Tyra Grant (2,044) and Kahadeejah Herbert (2,025) in the exclusive club.
“She’s one of only five players to do that in our program and we’ve had a lot of great players suit up for us,” Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. “I’m really thrilled for her. She’s such a hard worker and she plays with such passion. You want things like this to happen to great people and she’s one of the great players to play our game and for Lady Lion basketball.
“I’m really thrilled that she could reach this milestone, especially so early in her senior year because she’s got a lot more points to add to it.”
Lucas, who had a season-low seven points in a 77-67 loss to No. 4 Notre Dame on Wednesday, played well, despite missing practice Saturday.
“She’s fine,” Washington said. “It’s just the normal bumps and bruises from playing once you start the season.”
Although she struggled early, Lucas was the only Penn State player doing much scoring in a frigid first half. Lucas (4 of 14 from the floor) had 15 points as the Lady Lions made just 7 of 34 field goal attempts (21 percent).
Georgetown was just as bad, sinking just 7 of 30 (23 percent) as the Lady Lions led 28-25 at the break.
The Lady Lions came out blazing in the second half, making 13 of their first 14 field goal attempts. They outscored Georgetown 28-12 to take a commanding 56-37 lead.
“It could have been something just as simple as adjusting to the gym and the rims,” Washington explained. “We didn’t have shootaround here (Saturday) because of the timing of leaving with the weather and everything. We got our first shots up during warm-ups.
“I thought we did a better job attacking the zone and going inside,” Washington added. “I thought we got some good looks as soon as we came out in the second half. We were a little bit better in our zone defense. We played a little bit more zone because we got in foul trouble in the first half. We rebounded fairly well and got some transition opportunities.”
Lucas was 4 for 4 during the run, including a two-pointer that gave her 2,000 points exactly. She was 6 of 7 in the second half.
Talia East, who played just five minutes in the first half thanks to foul troubles, had three baskets during the key run.
“She helped big time,” Washington said of East, who finished with 10 points, five rebounds and helped hold Georgetown’s top scorer Natalie Butler to 12 points. “Her defense in the middle of the zone and on Natalie Butler was really key for us. She did a great job of defending Butler. When Talia wasn’t in the game, that’s kind of when Butler got her points.
“Talia’s playing really good basketball for us, probably the best basketball of her career. She’s being really productive scoring and rebounding the ball. Having her on the court makes a difference for our offense and defense as well.”
Georgetown (5-3) didn’t go away. The Hoyas’ 10-0 run cut the margin to 56-47. Penn State responded with a 9-1 outburst to push the lead back to 65-48 with just under five minutes remaining.
Washington went liberally to her bench and the Hoyas pounced. They used a 13-1 run to crawl within 66-61 with 2:06 left.
But on their next possession, the Lady Lions broke the Georgetown press and Ariel Edwards hit Lucas for a layup. Penn State went 9 for 12 from the foul line from there to close out the Hoyas.
“We got up and I put some of the freshmen in and things kind of got sloppy, so we had to put our starters back in the last couple of minutes,” Washington said. “When a team gets going and they get their momentum and confidence, it’s hard to slow them even when you put your starters back out there.
“Our starters went back out, got control of the game, went to the free throw line and made big free throws to keep them away.”
Washington said she didn’t regret the strategy.
“I’m going to try to find ways to work the freshmen into the rotation,” she said. “Sometimes, that’s the result when they’re out there and they’re still getting their game legs under them. It’s best that we get them as much experience as possible.”
Edwards and Dara Taylor added 12 points each for the Lady Lions, who were 17 of 25 from the floor in the second half. Tori Waldner grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
Long-range bomber Katie McCormick sank five 3-pointers and led Georgetown with 17 points.
Penn State next travels to South Dakota State on Wednesday.
Notes: Lucas has six career 30-point games with two coming against Georgetown. … In addition to reaching her milestone, Lucas moved past Tanisha Wright (1,996) on the PSU scoring list. … Lucas extended her school record of making a 3-pointer to 43 straight games. … Penn State improved to 5-1 against Georgetown and 3-0 away from the Bryce Jordan Center this season. … Waldner has blocked a shot in seven straight games.