UNIVERSITY PARK - With leading scorer Maggie Lucas on the bench with foul trouble, the Penn State women's basketball team needed somebody to step up during the second half against North Carolina.
Instead, a good part of the team responded.
Five players contributed to a decisive 14-0 run that helped the No. 16 Lady Lions beat the No. 14 Tar Heels 103-84 at the Bryce Jordan Center. Zhaque Gray had 25 points and Maggie Lucas added 21 for Penn State (6-1), which increased its winning streak to four games with the victory in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Brittany Rountree had 27 points and Laura Broomfield added 21 points and 17 rebounds for North Carolina (5-1).
Wednesday's game was the first match-up of Top 20 teams at the Bryce Jordan Center since Feb. 29, 2004, when then-No. 6 Penn State beat No. 4 Purdue to win the Big Ten regular-season title.
The significance of the game wasn't lost on the Lady Lions.
"It's a really big win," said Alex Bentley, who recorded her first double-double with 15 points and a career-high 15 assists. "We all came into tonight's game very hyped, very excited to play. This is what we dream about when we're in high school, growing up, practicing, being in the gym all the time ... playing these great teams. Tonight was a great experience all-around."
Penn State had a 62-55 lead when Lucas went to the bench after picking up her fourth foul with 19:05 remaining. The Lady Lions eventually led by 13 points, but the Tar Heels slowly cut into their deficit and a basket from Broomfield made it 70-66 with 11:32 remaining.
Talia East made one of two free throws to start Penn State's deciding run. Ariel Edwards followed with a lay-up, Nikkie Greene added a three-point play and Marisa Wolfe's 3-pointer made it 79-66. Gray capped the scoring burst with a 3-pointer and a lay-up that put the Lady Lions ahead 84-66 with 7:35 left.
Lucas returned to the game around 30 seconds later. Penn State coach Coquese Washington said she wasn't surprised how her team responded in her absence.
"I have a lot of confidence in every single player on this team," she said. "We always talk about being a team and that one person isn't going to win the game for us and one person isn't going to lose the game for us. We haven't played one game this year with our entire team in uniform, but we've managed to perform well enough on most nights to come away with a 'W.' "
The Tar Heels got no closer than 12 points the rest of the way. Lucas' basket with 16 seconds left accounted for the final margin and gave the Lady Lions their biggest lead of the night.
Washington credited Bentley with calming down the team once it established a 10-point lead midway through the second half.
"I thought she was phenomenal," Washington said. "I thought she had a great command of the game, making really smart decisions, especially once we got a little bit of a lead. She did a really good job of controlling the team and not settling for quick shot, but running the offense and forcing them to play 15, 20 seconds of defense."
Penn State, which was coming off a 103-65 win over Nevada on Saturday, scored 100 points in back-to-back games for the first time since Jan. 2 and Jan. 7, 1993. The Lady Lions, who had five players in double figures, shot 48.7 percent from the field, including 58.3 percent (14 of 24) from the 3-point line.
"They're a great shooting team," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "There's no doubt about that. When you shoot like they do, then you're going to win a lot of games [and] you don't have to do a lot of other things."
A fast-paced, high-scoring first half featured four ties and 13 lead changes. Behind Lucas' 16 points, the Lady Lions rallied from a 34-29 deficit to grab a 58-51 lead at the intermission.
NORTH CAROLINA (5-1): White 4-12 0-1 10, Rountree 7-14 8-8 27, Shegog 2-6 0-0 4, Gross 3-9 5-5 11, Broomfield 6-14 9-12 21, Buckland 2-6 0-0 4, Smith 1-4 0-2 3, Butts 2-5 0-0 4, Adams 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-71 22-28 84.
PENN STATE (6-1): Gray 8-16 3-3 25, Bentley 5-15 4-4 15, Edwards 6-11 0-0 13, Lucas 6-12 4-4 21, Greene 6-10 1-1 13, East 1-2 1-2 3, Studevent 0-0 0-0 0, Wolfe 3-8 0-0 7, Waldner 3-4 0-0 6. Totals 38-78 13-14 103.
Halftime-Penn St. 58-51. 3-Point Goals-North Carolina 8-18 (Rountree 5-8, White 2-4, Smith 1-2, Buckland 0-4), Penn St. 14-24 (Gray 6-10, Lucas 5-9, Edwards 1-1, Bentley 1-2, Wolfe 1-2). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-North Carolina 48 (Broomfield 17), Penn St. 40 (Edwards 8). Assists-North Carolina 16 (Buckland, Shegog 4), Penn St. 26 (Bentley 15). Total Fouls-North Carolina 17, Penn St. 21. A-3,963.