UNVIERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The No. 8/8 Penn State Lady Lions (16-2, 6-0 Big Ten) used four free throws from junior Maggie Lucas (Narberth, Pa.) and two steals from fellow junior Dara Taylor (Wilmington, Del.) to secure a hard-fought 64-59 victory over Minnesota (13-7, 2-4) on Thursday night at the Bryce Jordan Center. With the victory, Penn State has won 13 consecutive Big Ten regular-season games to tie a school record. Additionally, the Lady Lions improve to 6-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since 2004-05.
Senior Nikki Greene (Diboll, Texas) became the 35th player in school history to surpass the 1,000-point plateau with nine tallies. Penn State now has three players in the starting lineup with 1,000 career points (Maggie Lucas and Alex Bentley). Additionally, Greene was big on the boards, grabbing 13 rebounds for her fifth consecutive game with double digit rebounds.
Lucas netted her 40th career 20-point game for the Lady Lions scoring 26 points, including going 7-for-7 from the free throw line. The junior, who shot 50 percent from the field and made her 250th career three-pointer, filled the stat sheet with six rebounds, four assists, three steals and a blocked shots. Senior point guard Alex Bentley (Indianapolis, Ind.) also finished in double figures with 12 points to go along with three assists. Sophomore center Tori Waldner (Milton, Ga.) was a spark off of the bench with a career-high five blocks and four rebounds.
Minnesota jumped out to an 11-8 lead, but Penn State would score the next six. Senior Mia Nickson (Ashburn, Va.) started that stint with a layup at the 13:49 mark, junior Ariel Edwards (Elmont, N.Y.) followed with a fastbreak layup off a steal and Lucas hit her second field goal to give the Lady Lions a 14-11 lead with 12:44 remaining in the first half.
Penn State would maintain a lead until the 5:49 mark when Kayla Hirt tied the game up at 22 apiece. Then with everything knotted up at 24, senior Gizelle Studevent (La Jolla, Calif.) hit a jumper and Lucas knocked down a jumper of her own to give Penn State a 28-24 lead. However, Minnesota would answer with 5-0 run to take a 29-28 advantage before Penn State closed the half on a 3-0 run on a Bentley fastbreak layup and a Greene made free throw for a 31-29 lead at the break.
After Minnesota quickly tied the game up at the start of the second half, Bentley answered with a jumper in the lane to give Penn State a 33-31 advantage. Minnesota would score the next two field goals to go up by two, but Lucas converted on a floater in the lane and was fouled. She made the ensuing free throw to give Penn State a 36-35 advantage. The Golden Gophers again answered with two field goals to go up by three. A stepback two by Lucas and a three-point play by Edwards put the Lady Lions back up by two, but Minnesota's Rachel Banham tied it back up at 41 with 11:22 to go.
Minnesota continued what was a 6-0 run with two more field goals to go up by four at the 10:11 mark (45-41). Lucas took the Lions on her shoulders and scored the next four points to knot the game up at 45 with 8:26 on the clock. After Banham sank two free throws to put Minnesota up by two, Greene grabbed the offensive board and converted on the layup with 7:57 to go tied the contest up at 47. Coming out of the media timeout, the Lady Lions would score the first five as Taylor made one of two free throws and Greene tallied the rebound and putback off Taylor's free throw miss. On Penn State's next possession, Bentley converted on a fastbreak jumper to give Penn State its largest lead of the game to that point, 52-47.
Coming out of a timeout, Minnesota scored the next four to pull within one (52-51) at the 4:48 mark. Bentley converted with a jumper in the paint on the other end, but Banham responded for the Gophers with a jumper at the 3:46 mark to make it a 54-53 game. Lucas would answer on a fastbreak score off a Nickson steal, but Leah Cotton made it a one-point difference (56-55) with 2:38 to go.
The squads would continue to exchange scores over the next two minutes until Penn State created separation with 24 seconds remaining when Lucas was fouled going to the basket. The junior made both free throws to give the Lady Lions a 62-59 lead. On the other end, Banham missed a three, but Kellogg grabbed the rebound. Looking to make a pass out to the perimeter, Kellogg's pass was stolen by Taylor who dished it out to Lucas and was fouled. Lucas made both her shots from the charity stripe with three seconds to go to seal up a 64-59 victory for the Lady Lions. On the ensuing inbounds pass with 2.9 seconds left, Taylor snatched her third steal of the game.
GAME NOTES: With nine points, senior center Nikki Greene became the 35th player in Penn State history with 1,000 career points ... Penn State improves to 6-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since 2004-05 ... The Lady Lions have now won 13 consecutive Big Ten regular-season games dating back to last year, tying a school record. The last time the Lady Lions won 13-straight regular-season Big Ten Conference games was over the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons ... Penn State is riding a 10-game winning streak, which is tied for the sixth longest streak in school history ... The Lady Lions have won 16 consecutive games at the Bryce Jordan Center, which is tied for the seventh-longest streak in school history ... With a 16-2 mark, Penn State is off to its best start since 1999-00 ... Penn State improves to 26-11 in games against Minnesota including 15-3 at home ... Maggie Lucas netted her 250th career three-pointer ... Lucas moves into 11th on Penn State's career scoring list with 1,556 pts., passing Tanya Garner (1,538) ... Tori Waldner notched a career-high five blocks ... Senior forward Mia Nickson moved into a tie with Lorraine McGirt for 25th place on Penn State career rebounding list with 531 boards.
The Lady Lions begin a two-game road trip by heading to Ohio State Sunday for a Big Ten Network game before traveling to Wisconsin Jan. 31. Penn State returns home on Monday, Feb. 4 to face Purdue in a Big Monday battle on ESPN2. The Purdue game will be Centre County Women's Resource Night and fans that bring an item off of the CCWRC's needed items list will receive $5 off their ticket. Go to www.GoPSUsports.com/promotions/wbb.html for complete promotions information.
Single game tickets for the Lady Lions are on sale. Tickets are $15 and $12 for adults and seniors and $9 and $7 for youth (12 and younger). The PNC Flex Books are available again this year for $99. The Flex Book gives fans 12 vouchers, 10 that can be redeemed in any combination for Nittany Lion and Lady Lion Basketball tickets throughout the year and two extra vouchers for the Nittany Lions' Coaches Vs. Cancer game and the Lady Lions' Pink Zone game.
The 2013 Pink Zone at Penn State will take place on Sunday, Feb. 24 as the Lady Lions take on Michigan in the Bryce Jordan Center. Last year, the Lady Lions donated a record $203,000 to breast cancer causes. This year's fundraising efforts will benefit the Mount Nittany Medical Center, Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital and Lewistown Hospital. For more information on the Pink Zone at Penn State, visit the official Pink Zone website at www.pennsylvaniapinkzone.org.
The Lady Lions are on Twitter. Follow sports information contact Kris Petersen (@ladylionsid) and the Lady Lions and coaches (@pennstatewbb) to get the inside scoop. The Lady Lions are also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pennstateladylions.