Lucas Leads Lady Lions Past Northwestern

Story posted February 21, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio by Uriah Tagle

Carrying momentum from the Pink Zone win against Wisconsin on Sunday, the No. 9 Penn State Lady Lions (21-5, 12-2 Big Ten) defeated the visiting Northwestern Wildcats (14-12, 4-9 Big Ten), 82-73 at the Bryce Jordan Center on Thursday night.  The win was the team’s eighth straight over Northwestern, and now lead the all-time series, 33-7.

Despite Northwestern’s subpar record in the Big Ten this season, the Wildcats have shown their potential with wins over Nebraska and Purdue.  Lady Lions head coach Coquese Washington was set on making sure her squad did not look past the Wildcats.

“Northwestern is a good team.  They have the talent to keep games close and they are not phased by the score,” Washington said in the postgame press conference.  “They are tough to guard.”

The game began with the two teams trading scoring runs in the first half, with the Lady Lions emerging with a 38-32 lead heading into the break.  Senior guard Maggie Lucas paced the Penn State offense early with 13 points, while Northwestern sophomore guard Maggie Lyon controlled the Wildcats scoring, dropping in 14 points, including 4 three-pointers. 

Lucas would finish the night with a team-high 26 points.  The performance moves her into a tie for fourth-place on the Big Ten career-scoring list, with 2,405.

Despite a poor 34.2% shooting percentage in the first period, the Lady Lions were able to maintain their lead by attacking the basket, and converting at the free-throw line, shooting 10-11 from the charity stripe.  Northwestern didn’t fair much better from the field shooting 39.4% in the first half, but head coach Joe McKeown’s Wildcats were plagued by turnovers, posting 11 before the halftime horn sounded.

“We had a chance to win the game at home because we didn’t turn the ball over,” McKeown said after the game.  “Tonight we didn’t do a good job of that.  We just made some poor decisions early on and that hurt us.”

Penn State’s offense came out of the half clicking on all cylinders as they scored nine points in the first four minutes.  The strong start was capped by a Maggie Lucas four-point play, in which the senior nailed a three as she was fouled to energize the Bryce Jordan Center crowd and grow the Penn State lead to 11.

At the 12:22 mark in the second half, Northwestern forward and leading scorer Nia Coffey tallied her fifth foul, and fouled out of the game.  Coffey finished with 14 points and her departure ultimately ended Northwestern’s shot at an upset.  The Wildcats trailed for the rest of the night, en route to the 82-73 final.

Lady Lions senior forward Ariel Edwards struggled from the field for most of the night, going 2-9 in the first half for 4 points.  Late in the second half however, Edwards was able to turn her night around, scoring 11 points, six of those coming on converted three-point plays. After the game, both head coaches had nothing but praise for the 6-3 senior.

"Ariel Edwards is probably the most underrated player in the Big Ten,” said McKeown.  “They should appreciate her a lot because she does all of the little things you want a player to do.”

“She is versatile; she can do everything,” remarked Coach Washington.  “She can guard one through four, rebound, bring the ball up against the press, and shoot inside and outside.  She is just a sound player.”

The Lady Lions received contributions on both the offensive and defensive ends from junior forward Tori Waldner, who finished with 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 blocks.  At 6-5, Waldner is able to use her size and mobility to create scoring opportunities on the offensive end.  On Thursday night, she seemed to take all of the right shots, shooting an efficient 6-11 from the field.

“I always look to score, but it has to come in the flow of the offense,” Waldner said.  “I don’t want to force it, I just want to let the game come to me.”

The Lady Lions will be back in action on Monday February 24, in Lincoln against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  On Saturday March 1, Penn State will host Michigan on Senior Day for their final game of the regular season.  ComRadio will have the call live from the Bryce Jordan Center at 3:30 p.m.

Uriah Tagle is a junior majoring in communication arts and sciences, and economics.  To contact him, email uriahtagle@gmail.com.

Photo Courtesy: (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)