For the second-straight game, Penn State’s seniors carried the team on the way to one of its most impressive victories of the season. Dara Taylor (Wilmington, Del.), Maggie Lucas (Narberth, Pa.) and Ariel Edwards (Elmont, N.Y.) each had monster games en route to the lopsided victory.
Taylor played the best game of her collegiate career, setting her career-high with 22 points and matching her personal best with eight rebounds while adding four assists and a steal to complete her impressive evening. The Delaware native shot an efficient 8-of-13 from the field and 5-of-7 from the charity stripe. The senior’s four assists pushed her over the 500-helper mark for her collegiate career.
Lucas matched Taylor in the points department, dropping 22 of her own, 12 of which came off her four three-point makes. The senior’s 22 points push Lucas over the 2,500-point mark for her prolific career. Lucas is just the second player in Lady Lion history and fourth in Big Ten history to accomplish the feat. The senior also handed out four assists, grabbed three rebounds and recorded two steals.
Edwards connected on 50% of her attempts from the floor, shooting 6-of-12 from the field to score 18 points, the most of her career in an NCAA Tournament game. Edwards added three rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block to punctuate her evening.
Two other Lady Lions delivered solid nights in the big win in senior Talia East (Philadelphia, Pa.) and freshman Kaliyah Mitchell (Stone Mountain, Ga.). East scored nine points and added sevenboards and a block, while Mitchell provided a spark off the bench with eight points, seven rebounds and a career and team-high four steals.
Neither team got off to a great start offensively, as the two teams combined to shoot 1-for-8 from the field and combined for four turnovers in the opening minutes. Lucas knocked down two free throws from after Florida’s Kayla Lewis opened up the scoring with a layup for an early 2-2 tie.
After the first three minutes, Penn State settled in and completely dominated the action over the next 4:17 of play, as the team reeled off a 13-2 run to grab an early 17-4 advantage with less than 12 and a half minutes left in the half. The Lady Lions used tenacious defense to spark the run, causing five turnovers in the span which led to 11 points on the other end. Taylor was the catalyst, scoring six points off two layups and a jumper for six of the 13 points.
The Gators’ Antoinette Bannister ended the spurt with a three-point make from the corner to cut the Lady Lions’ lead to 10 points (17-7) with less than 12 minutes left in the first frame.
The two squads traded baskets over the next 10 minutes of action, as Penn State held a 38-30 lead at the two-minute mark in the opening half. Edwards was responsible for nine of the 21 points during the stretch, scoring from beyond the arc, at the free throw line and with a mid-range jumper.
The Lady Lions closed out the half by scoring five of the final seven points to take a 43-32 lead into the break. Lucas accounted for all five of the points, knocking down her first three of the game followed by two free throws to give Penn State the double-digit lead (43-32) after the first 20 minutes of play.
The Lady Lions wasted little time in extending their lead out of the intermission, scoring the first four points to open the second stanza off an Edwards jumper followed by a Taylor layup to make the score 47-32, the largest lead of the game for either team.
Florida’s Cassie Peoples knocked down a jumper at the 18:13 mark to cut the Blue and White’s lead to 13 points (47-34) before Penn State went on an impressive 13-2 run to open up an insurmountable 60-36 lead with just over 14 minutes left in the contest. Lucas powered the charge, hitting back-to-back threes and adding two free throws to score eight of the Lady Lions’ points over the spurt.
Penn State pushed its lead to as many as 28 points with the score 69-41 before the Gators stormed back with a run of their own. Florida scored the game’s next 12 points over the next three minutes of play to trim its deficit to 16 points (69-53).
East connected on a jumper in the lane to halt Florida’s momentum an increase the Penn State lead back up to 18 (71-53) with 7:21 left on the clock. From there the Lady Lions cruised to the 22-point victory, winning by a final of 83-61 and securing the program’s 13th Sweet Sixteen berth.
--Penn State Athletic Communications
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