EVANSTON, ILL. - The #13/12 Penn State Lady Lions (17-4, 8-1 Big Ten) saw a 20-point first-half lead evaporate, but got five consecutive points from Talia East (Philadelphia, Pa.) in the final 2:22 and salted away the win from the free throw line as they held off Northwestern (14-8, 4-5) Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Maggie Lucas (Narberth, Pa.) was a perfect 9-for-9 from the free throw line and finished with a team-best 19 points to lead five Lady Lions in double figures. Lucas also added six rebounds and three assists in the win. Ariel Edwards (Elmont, N.Y.) had a near double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds to go along with three assists and two steals.
Freshman Peyton Whitted (Suwanee, Ga.) tallied a career-high 11 points on a 5-of-6 shooting performance. She also added six rebounds in 13 minutes of action. East also reached double figures with 11 points with six rebounds and two assists as she battled foul trouble. Dara Taylor (Wilmington, Del.) was the fifth Lady Lion to reach double figures with 11 tallies with five assists and three steals on the day.
The Lady Lions established the early 8-5 lead just two and a half minutes into the game thanks to four points by Edwards and two points each from East and Tori Waldner (Milton, Ga.). However, the Wildcats, who were without the services of their leading scorer Nia Coffey, responded with a 6-0 run of their own to take an 11-8 lead with 15:13 left in the opening frame.
Penn State got a nice bucket from Kaliyah Mitchell (Stone Mountain, Ga.), who then found East for a layup to jump-start a Lady Lion run. Lucas then scored the game's next seven points on an old-fashioned three-point play and four free throws to extend PSU's lead to 19-11 with 11:24 left. After a score by NU's Christen Inman snapped a five-minute drought for the Wildcats, Candice Agee (Victorville, Calif.), Whitted and Edwards put together consecutive hoops to close out the 17-2 run and give Penn State a 25-13 lead with nine minutes left in the first.
The Wildcats closed the gap as they scored seven of the next 11 points to make it a nine-point game (29-20) less than seven minutes remaining. Lucas kicked off the next Penn State run with four-straight points via a jumper and two freebies. Edwards followed with a pair of free throws and Agee took a feed from Lucas in for the score to make it a 37-20 Penn State lead. Dara Taylor (Wilmington, Del.) sandwiched a jumper and three-pointer around a Northwestern bucket by Alex Cohen to finish the 13-2 run and give PSU a 20-point lead (42-22) with 3:33 left. The Wildcats fought back to close out the half with a 9-2 spurt to send the teams into the break with Penn State up, 44-31.
Penn State came out of the break and scored the first four points thanks to buckets by East and Taylor to make it a 48-31 gap. The Wildcats continued to fight as they went on a 20-7 run to close within four at 55-51 with 9:30 left. The Lady Lions rallied back with five straight points thanks to Lucas and a three-point play by Whitted to push the lead back to nine with less than eight minutes left.
The Wildcats turned up the heat and fired off a 12-2 run to take a 63-62 lead with less than five minutes to play. The squads exchanged scores to keep it at a one-point margin with 3:35 on the clock until Maggie Lyon connected on a three-pointer to give the Wildcats their largest lead of the game at four points (70-66). However, Taylor responded with a three-pointer of her own to make it a one-point game (70-69).
East came up hug in the next stretch, making two free throws and then coming back with a three-point play to give the Lions a 74-70 lead with 1:15 to play. The Wildcats would not go away quietly as Lyon hit yet another three-pointer to close the gap to one. Edwards was fouled on the ensuing possession and made both shots to put it back to a three-point margin (76-73) with 43 seconds left. Northwestern split a pair from the charity stripe and Taylor made one-of-two to keep it at a three-point game with 23 seconds left.
The Wildcats were set to the free throw line again, but only made one of the two attempts to make it a two-point margin. After a timeout, the Lady Lions turned the ball over on the inbounds pass and the Wildcats' two chances to tie the game rimmed out. Mitchell was fouled while going up for the rebound and made both free throws to seal the 79-75 win.
GAME NOTES: Peyton Whitted had her best game as a Lady Lion with a career-best 11 points, surpassing her previous career high of nine set at Illinois on Jan. 9 ... Maggie Lucas moved into a tie for third place on Penn State's all-time free throws made list with 487 makes as a Lady Lion, equaling Susan Robinson (487; 1989-92) ... With five makes in the game from the field, Lucas climbed to sixth place on the program's all-time career field goals made chart with 727 made shots, passing Alex Bentley (725; 2010-13) ... Kaliyah Mitchell hit two free throws late to seal the victory and reach the 100 point milestone in her young Lady Lion career ... Penn State had five players reach double figures for the third game this season and second time in Big Ten action, with the last coming in an 87-71 win at Iowa (1/5/14) ... With the victory, the Lady Lions increase their current win streak to six games, the longest of the season ... Penn State is now a perfect 5-0 in Big Ten road matchups this season ... The Blue and White is now 32-7 versus Northwestern in the all-time series and 13-5 in road games against the Wildcats ... With the win, Penn State extends its win streak to seven games over the Wildcats, including four consecutive victories in Evanston ... The Lady Lions improved to 16-7 on Super Bowl Sunday ... The senior class now has 93 wins in their four seasons, which is tied for 10th in program history.
--Penn State Athletic Communications