Maggie Lucas made history Thursday and so did the rest her teammates.
Lucas scored 23 points to move to second on Penn State’s all-time scoring list and the Lady Lions won back-to-back games at Purdue for the first time ever in a 75-72 nail-biter at Mackey Arena. The Boilermakers’ KK Houser misfired on a potential game-winning 3-pointer with five seconds left and the Lady Lions held on despite going 8 for 21 from the foul line.
Ariel Edwards netted 21 points, 14 in the second half, Dara Taylor added 13 and Talia East had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds as No. 12 Penn State (16-4 overall, 7-1 Big Ten) avenged its only league loss against the No. 19 Boilermakers (15-6, 5-4), who were led by Houser’s career-high 27 points.
Lucas (2,259 points) played all 40 minutes as she moved past Susan Robinson (2,253) to second on Penn State’s scoring list. She also passed Purdue’s Shereka Wright (2,251) for ninth in Big Ten history.
“That’s cool stuff for the record books,” said Penn State coach Coquese Washington, whose team remained a game ahead of Michigan State atop the conference standings. “We’ll take it, but we just feel good that at end of the first half of conference play we’re sitting in a good position. We want to keep getting better so we can stay here as long as possible.”
Beside the points, Lucas had an outstanding all-around game. She was 9 for 15 from the floor, had six assists, grabbed five rebounds and made two steals.
“She really got going offensively and made some big shots for us,” Washington said. “She did a good job of distributing the ball.”
Lucas and East were especially big in the first half as Penn State struggled offensively. The two were 10 for 14 and combined for 23 points in the first half, while the rest of the Lady Lions shot 4 for 22.
Purdue led 34-33 half behind 15 points from Houser.
The contest was tied at 44-44 six minutes into the second half when Penn State went on a 6-0 run to take the lead for good. East’s left-hand hook opened the outburst and defense finished it. Taylor made a steal and layup and Lucas converted after Edwards’ steal to make the score 50-44. Another 7-0 run triggered by Lucas’ 3-pointer gave the Lady Lions their biggest lead at 61-52 with 7 1/2 minutes left.
Purdue would rally and get within a basket several times down the stretch, taking advantage of Penn State’s poor free throw shooting. The Lady Lions, who were shooting better the 78 percent as a team coming into the game, made just 2 of 10 over the final 5:03. Purdue was 27 for 30 for the game.
“It’s an aberration,” Washington said of her team’s night at the foul line. “We’ve been a really good free throw shooting team all season. I’m not worried about it. Fortunately, that didn’t cost us the ballgame.”
Edwards made a layup in transition and was fouled to give Penn State a 74-69 lead with 1:42 left. Edwards missed the free throw and Purdue closed again. Liza Clemons made a layup and Houser made 1 of 2 from the line to make the score 74-72.
Edwards was fouled and went back to the stripe with 20.7 left, but the 84 percent foul shooter missed both to give the Boilermakers one more chance to tie or win.
Houser rubbed off pick to the left of the top of the key and had an open 3-pointer, but missed badly and Kaliyah Mitchell grabbed the rebound. Mitchell made 1 of 2 free throws with 1.5 seconds left for the final margin.
“I was holding my breath because that’s a shot she can make,” Washington said. “I thought she got a little too open. We had a little bit of a miscommunication there and she got a little bit more open than I would have liked. When you’ve been aggressive and running at people the whole game, that helps defend even when you’re not even in their presence.”
Houser, who was 7 for 25 of the floor, said the Boilermakers thought they needed three points to tie the game. “Honestly, we made a mental error out there,” she said. “A lot of thought we were down three, instead of two. ... We easily could have attacked and tried to draw contact.”
As a whole, Washington was pleased with her team’s defense against a team the had scored 84 points against the Lady Lions just 18 days ago. The Boilermakers shot just 31.7 percent from the floor. The Lady Lions also finished with a 22-6 edge in fastbreak points against a team that had previously whipped them in transition.
Edwards did an excellent job against Courtney Moses, who had 25 points against the Lady Lions earlier this season. Moses was 2 for 7 from the floor and had seven points.
“I was really pleased with our defense,” Washington said. “Overall, we did a pretty good job making Houser and Moses take tough shots. Ariel did fantastic job on Moses. That was the difference between the first game and this game, we defended better, we contested shots better and we got back and defended shots better.”
Edwards, who opened the game 1 for 7, finished 9 for 21 from the floor, scoring many of her baskets in transition in the second half. The Lady Lions were 17 of 35 from the floor in the final half.
“She was really focused on the defensive end of the floor, especially early in the game,” Washington said of Edwards. “As her defense gave her confidence, she didn’t press and worry about what was happening on offense. In the second half, we were able to get out in transition and she was able to attack the basket and get some buckets that way.”
“The key to the game was (Edwards) running down the left side and having 12 points,” Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said of the second half. “That was the game right there.”
East tied a career high with 12 points and was 6 for 10 from the floor.
“Our perimeter play opened things up for Talia,” Washington said. “I thought she was really big and made some timely baskets for us.”
April Wilson had 14 points and Whitney Bays added 12 for the Boilermakers.
“When were locked in and playing great team defense and when we can go on the road and win on a tough environment like Mackey Arena, that’s a night you can feel really good about what you’re doing,” Washington said.
The Lady Lions return to action at 2 p.m. Sunday at Northwestern. The Wildcats (14-7, 4-4) defeated Indiana 58-52 Thursday.