Thanks to the snowy weather, Penn State coach Coquese Washington and her basketball team had to spend Thursday night in Indiana.
Thanks to the result earlier in the evening, Washington didn’t seem to mind the change in travel plans.
“We’re going to have a slumber party,” said Washington with a chuckle following her team’s 71-63 triumph against the Hoosiers. “We’re going to make it fun. We’re going to stay up late. There’s no school tomorrow. We’re going the Steak & Shake and get some shakes. We’re going to live it up in Bloomington, Ind., for one night.”
Maggie Lucas’ shooting was a big reason why the No. 11 Lady Lions (19-5 overall, 10-2 Big Ten) could party. Lucas scored a game-high 32 points, nailed 10 of 16 shots from the floor, as Penn State improved to 7-0 in conference road games and maintained its lead atop the conference standings.
Dara Taylor added 12 points and eight assists for the Lady Lions, who lead second-place Michigan State (8-3) and Nebraska (8-3) in the Big Ten race.
Lucas set the tone from the start, scoring Penn State’s first nine points. She scored 16 in each half.
“I thought she was phenomenal,” Washington said of Lucas. “She shot the ball really well. She was really efficient — she had 32 points on 16 shots. I also thought Dara had a real good game of finding Maggie and setting her up to get some good open looks, even if Maggie couldn’t shoot it off the catch. They were a good tandem for us tonight.”
“She made a lot of difficult shots,” Indiana coach Curt Miller said of Lucas. “That’s what she does. There’s a reason why she’s one of the all-time leading scorers in this conference’s history. There’s a lot of good players on that team and without her tonight having a monster game, we may pull the upset.”
Indiana (17-7, 4-7), who leads the conference in 3-pointers made per game, started hot from long distance. The Hoosiers’ first five field goals were 3-pointers as the game was tied 16-16. But Penn State adjusted and held the Hoosiers to 8 of 34 shooting from long distance.
“They had five threes early in the first half and then we made some adjustments,” Washington said. “Most of it was the attention to get on the shooters and contest the 3-point shot a little more. I was really pleased that we didn’t give up too many threes because they’re a very good 3-point shooting team and they shoot a lot of them. When they get on a roll, they can make a lot of them.”
The Lady Lions led by as many as 10 points in the half before settling for a 37-31 lead at the break.
That lead wouldn’t last long.
Tabitha Geradot netted five points as the Hoosiers scored the first 10 points of the second half to move in front 41-37.
Indiana still led 50-48, when Penn State bounced back. Taylor and Ariel Edwards each had five points in a 12-2 run that gave the Lady Lions a 60-52 lead with 7:18 lefy. The Hoosiers got as close as 67-63 with 44.7 seconds remaining, but Lucas made four free throws in the final 40 seconds to ice the game.
“I thought we responded very well,” Washington said. “We knew that playing there this year would be tough. They’ve played very well at home. They’re a tough team and they played better. They had their fans into it and a good crowd out. They played hard, made some tough shots and were aggressive. I’m just really pleased with out kids that we were able to respond to their runs in the second half and kind of get a measure of control of the game.”
Edwards notched 10 points and Talia East added nine for the Lady Lions, who shot an even 50 percent (26 of 52) for the contest. Edwards grabbed nine boards and Taylor had three steals.
Larryn Brooks paced Indiana with 16 points. Simone Deloach added 13 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. The Hoosiers shot 34 percent (24 of 71) for the game.
“We put ourselves in position tonight for something very special to happen,” Miller said. “To their credit, they’re very talented with four senior starters and they made plays when we needed to. ... We missed a lot of open shots.”
Penn State returns to action Sunday with its annual Pink Zone game against Wisconsin at 1 p.m. The doors at the Bryce Jordan Center will open at 11 a.m. that day to handle the crowd which is expected to be well above 10,000.
Notes: Lucas became the first player in program history and the sixth in Big Ten history to have 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists and 200 steals in a career. ... Lucas surpassed the 500-point mark for the season, joining Kelly Mazzante and Susan Robinson as the only Penn State players to have at least 500 points in all four of their seasons. ... Lucas made four 3-pointers to move into a tie with Georgetown’s Sugar Rogers for 14th place in NCAA history with 346. ... Freshman Kaliyah Mitchell grabbed five rebounds to move past the 100-mark for the season. ... Penn State improved to 31-9 against Indiana.