Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was classic Lady Lion basketball on Sunday at the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday, Dec. 15 as Penn State hosted then-No. 20/24 Texas A&M. The Lady Lions entered the contest ranked 12th in the NCAA and dominated the glass in the second half, played stifling defense and watched their best offensive scorer go to work in the scoring column culminating in a 66-58 win over the Aggies.
Penn State started off hot in the first half opening the game with a 12-0 run with scoring from Lucas, Ariel Edwards and Dara Taylor. Texas A&M then found a way to negate their 0-for-13 shooting start and made a run midway through to half to take a 27-19 lead. The Lady Lions countered with an 11-1 run to take a 30-28 lead into the break.
The second half was where things got rolling for Penn State and Lucas led the way scoring nine of the first 11 points of the half. Lucas added 10 more points in her 17-point second half and 27-point afternoon, guiding Penn State past a tough Aggie team.
"I thought she got some pretty good looks," said Penn State head coach Coquese Washington. "Maggie [Lucas] picked up the load. She made some really good shots and she made some tough shots. She did a good job reading the defense to figure out where her openings were going to be."
For Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair, Lucas' performance was no surprise. The 11th year head coach spoke highly of Lucas in the postgame press conference and even said he used her as an example to his players before the game.
"I told my kids before shoot around, I said 'Watch'," Blair said referencing Lucas. "An hour and thirty minutes before the game, Maggie Lucas was on the floor shooting. That's what the great ones do. The good ones talk about it, the great ones find the gym and get their mojo working."
Lucas' mojo was working, especially in the second half. She didn't do it alone though, as the Penn State rebounding attack improved greatly in the final 20 minutes of play. Texas A&M tallied just three offensive rebounds in the half, compared to 13 in the first half.
With Talia East in foul trouble, Tori Waldner and Edwards combined for eight of Penn State's 16 defensive rebounds shutting Texas A&M out of any second-chance opportunities. Because of the zone Washington uses, defensive rebounding can be hard to come by because of the gaps it creates, but she has stressed her team has to find a way to counter that and she thought they did a good job of doing so in the second half.
"It takes the team a while to figure out where the rebounds were going to come from and how people are crashing the boards during a game," said Washington. "I thought the second half we did a much better job of rebounding out of the zone. Tori [Waldner], in particular, just did a much better job of attacking the backboard."
A strong second half led to the win against Texas A&M Sunday, but still has Washington searching for a complete two-halve performance with just two non-conference games remaining before their Big Ten opener against Iowa on Jan. 5.
However, Washington did say she thought the win Sunday was certainly a step in the right direction.
"We did a better job today in putting two halves together but we aren't quite there yet," she said. "That's the thing we have to do. I think the more experience we get with this team and this unit playing together, that will come."
Penn State hosts Alcorn State on Dec. 22 and Hartford on Dec. 29 to cap the 2013 non-conference season. Both games are at the Bryce Jordan Center.