UNIVERSITY PARK - Kelly Mazzante made a Penn State freshman record 65 3-pointers during her first season with the Lady Lions in 2000-01. The mark turned out to be a modest start to what became one of the most decorated careers in program history.
While it would be premature to anoint anyone the next Mazzante - let alone a freshman with just 19 games under her belt - Maggie Lucas has been everything Penn State could have hoped for and then some nearly two-thirds through her rookie campaign.
Lucas, Penn State's leading scorer, broke Mazzante's freshman 3-point mark in the Lady Lions' 83-62 win against Illinois on Sunday before a national TV audience on ESPN2 and 4,131 more fans inside the Bryce Jordan Center.
"I guess I can't say making the shots has exceeded my expectations, because I knew she was a fantastic shooter, I knew she had a great work ethic," Penn State coach Coquese Washington said of Lucas. "But I would say her transition from high school to college has gone much more smoothly than I anticipated, and probably much more smoothly than most kids that come to this level."
The 66th trey of Lucas' young career came at the 8:09 mark of the second half, extending Penn State's (15-4, 4-1 Big Ten) lead to 67-46. A Fighting Illini (7-11, 2-3) timeout followed 21 seconds later, giving way to recognition on the Jordan Center scoreboard and an ensuing standing ovation.
"I used to watch her play," Lucas, a Narbeth native, said of Mazzante. "I actually caught a game once when she was playing at St. Joe's, and that's right down the road from me, so I got to see her then. It's pretty cool, but that's not what you play for."
Lucas finished with a game-high 22 points off 8-for-13 shooting, hitting 6 of 8 3-point attempts. She added eight rebounds.
"I felt pretty in the zone today," Lucas said. "It was just about getting my feet set and finishing the shot. That's usually my two key points, and when I do that it's usually a pretty good day."
The day was made even better for Penn State with losses by Michigan State and Wisconsin. The Lady Lions are now tied with the Spartans atop the Big Ten.
"It's better than some other spots you can be," Washington said. "But again, that's not what we play for, to say, 'On Jan. 16, let's be tied for first place.' There's a lot of basketball left and this conference is so tough that we just have to focus on every game, what we need to do that day to be successful that day. And hopefully when we get to March 6 and we're still tied for first place, we're in first place, then I'll be really happy."
ILLINOIS (7-11, 2-3): Penn 5-13 5-10 15; Burke 4-11 1-2 11; Moore 3-13 2-2 10; GodBold 3-3 3-3 9; McCully 0-8 6-6 6; Rukavina 2-3 0-1 4; Mitchell 2-3 0-0 4; McGee 1-5 0-0 3; Blinn 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-59 17-24 62.
PENN STATE (15-4, 4-1): Lucas 8-13 0-0 22; Gray 4-6 4-4 15; Bentley 4-18 2-2 11; Greene 4-8 1-3 9; Trogele 2-4 3-4 8; Nickson 3-5 1-3 7; Womack 2-2 0-0 5; Edwards 2-3 0-0 4; Wolfe 1-3 0-0 2; Studevent 0-3 0-0 0; East 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-65 11-16 83.
Halftime: Penn State 41, Illinois 23. 3-point goals: Illinois 5-16 (Moore 2-10; Burke 2-4; McGee 1-2), Penn State 12-20 (Lucas 6-8; Gray 3-4; Trogele 1-2; Bentley 1-5; Womack 1-1). Rebounds: Illinois 35 (Penn 13), Penn State 45 (Nickson 8; Lucas 8). Assists: Illinois 12 (Moore 5), Penn State 17 (Bentley 8). Total fouls: Illinois 14, Penn State 18. A-4131.