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March 3, 2013
LINCOLN, NEB. - Junior guard Maggie Lucas (Narberth, Pa.) ended the regular-season in style with a career-best eight three-pointers en route to 34 points as the #7/7 Penn State Lady Lions (24-4, 14-2 Big Ten) claimed the Big Ten regular-season title outright with an 82-67 win over #20/25 Nebraska (22-7, 12-4) Sunday. Penn State shot 69.2% from the field in the second half and connected on 66.7% of their three-pointers in the closing frame. The win snaps Nebraska's 10-game winning streak.
With the win, the Lady Lions will serve as the 2013 Big Ten Tournament in Hoffman Estates, Ill. Penn State will face the winner of #8 Minnesota-#9 Ohio State on Friday at 7 p.m. (ET).
Lucas was 8-for-13 from long range to collect her fourth career 30-point performance. She also added nine rebounds and three steals against the Huskers. The eight triples are just one shy of the school record of nine, set by Kelly Mazzante. With her effort, Lucas also leapt into a tie for 10th place on Penn State's single-season scoring charts with 575 points on the year.
Alex Bentley (Indianapolis, Ind.) was solid as she contributed 13 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Mia Nickson (Ashburn, Va.) chipped in 12 tallies and six rebounds. Nikki Greene (Diboll, Texas) also reached double figures for the Lady Lions with 10 points to go along with six rebounds and a block.
Greene put the Lions on the board first with a rebound and layup off of a Lucas miss, but the Huskers bounced back with a pair of three-pointers by senior Lindsey Moore in her final game at the Devaney Center to take a 6-2 lead just over two minutes into the game. Consecutive scores by Talia East (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Bentley evened the score at 6-6.
After a pair of Jordan Hooper free throws, Lucas went on a personal 8-0 run, including two three-pointers, to give Penn State a 14-8 lead with 12:25 on the clock. The squads exchanged scores over the next several possessions to keep the lead at six (25-19) with 8:36 remaining. However, after a Bentley bucket, Nebraska went on an 8-2 run to close within a pair (29-27) with 5:31 left.
After a pair of Lucas free throws, the Huskers converted on three freebies to close within 31-30 with 2:15 left. The Lady Lions ended the half with a 7-2 run that featured a basket by Bentley, a rebound and layup by Nickson, one free throw from Ariel Edwards (Elmont, N.Y.) and a jumper by Lucas as time expired to send the Lions into the break with a 38-32 lead.
Just like the first half, Greene opened the scoring with a layup, but the Huskers scored the game's next five points to close the gap to three points (40-37) with 18 minutes left. The Lady Lions responded with a Dara Taylor's (Wilmington, Del.) basket and a pair of Lucas three-pointers sandwiched around a Hooper bucket to give Penn State a 48-39 lead with 16:25 remaining. The Huskers hit back-to-back triples to cut the Penn State lead to three (48-45) with 15:23 on the clock.
The squads exchanged scores to keep the margin between three and five points, but the Lady Lions clicked off an 8-0 run to take an 11-point lead (63-52) with less than nine minutes to go. Bentley accounted for four points in the run, while Greene and Lucas added two tallies each. The Huskers scored four of the game's next six points to make it a 65-56 game, but Lucas hit her eighth three-pointer of the game and Nickson followed up with a score of her own to extend the PSU lead to 14 (70-56) with five minutes to play. The squads exchanged scores down the stretch as the Lady Lions secured the 82-67 win.
GAME NOTES: Penn State clinches the outright Big Ten regular-season title for the second consecutive season ... The Lady Lions boast their best Big Ten record since 2003-04, where that squad posted a 15-1 mark ... Penn State improves to 5-1 all-time against the Huskers and 2-0 in games played in Lincoln ... The Lady Lions secure a sixth consecutive improvement in Penn State's Big Ten record under head coach Coquese Washington ... Penn State is now 5-1 against ranked opponents this season, averaging a 12-point margin of victory in wins over those opponents ... Maggie Lucas connected on a career-high eight three-pointers ... Lucas posted her fourth career 30-point game with 32 markers ... The last time a Lady Lion made eight threes in a game was Kelly Mazzante at Minnesota on Dec. 28, 2001 ... The 34-point performance by Lucas moves her up nine spots in a tie with Angie Potthoff for most points in a season with 575 and also in a tie with Potthoff for second most points scored by a junior in a season for the Lady Lions ... Lucas' eight three pointers jumps her total of 82 last season and moves her into fifth place in program history for threes in a season with 86 ... Lucas tied her season-high in rebounds with nine ... Mia Nickson eclipsed the 800-point mark in a Lady Lion uniform ... Nickson moved into a tie for 21st place on the program's career rebounding list (598) ... With 13 points, Alex Bentley moves past Angie Potthoff for eighth place in school history with 1,726 career points ... Nikki Greene moved into a tie for 31st place on PSU's career scoring list with Brianne O'Rourke (1,084).
The Lady Lions will travel to Hoffman Estates for the 2013 Big Ten Tournament. Penn State has secured a first-round bye and will begin competing on March 8 in the quarterfinals. The semifinal is March 9 and championship game is March 10. The Lady Lions are 24-16 all-time in the BTT, claiming titles in the first two tourneys (1995, 1996).
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