UNIVERSITY PARK - The Penn State women's basketball team entered its game against Michigan on Thursday carrying a streak of back-to-back Big Ten losses at the Bryce Jordan Center.
That slump served as motivation for the Lady Lions.
"It's always in the back of your mind," guard Alex Bentley said. "It's kind of what pushes you. Even tonight, we were like, 'We can't let this happen again on our home court. We've got to protect our home.' "
And that's what they did.
Penn State jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first seven minutes and was in control the rest of the way during its 78-63 victory. Maggie Lucas scored a game-high 22 points, Zhaque Gray had 15, and Bentley added 12 for the Lady Lions (12-4, 2-2 Big Ten), who won a home game for the first time in 26 days.
Reserve Kate Thompson had 18 points to lead Michigan (13-4, 2-2), which was coming off a home victory over No. 11 Ohio State.
"We're not really focused on who they beat," said Lucas, who recorded her ninth 20-point game of the season. "Ohio State is a great team. Everyone in the Big Ten is a great team. We wanted to give our fans a win tonight. We needed it."
The Lady Lions got back on track thanks to a strong shooting performance. They shot 55.4 percent, including 57.1 in the first half, against a Michigan team that entered the game with the second-best scoring defense (55.2 ppg) in the conference.
"It means we were taking good shots," Lucas said. "We make great shots. When we force, we miss."
Penn State's hot shooting started from the outset.
The Lady Lions pulled away from Michigan behind a 17-2 run that spanned nearly six minutes. Penn State was 7-of-7 shooting from the field during its run, which was highlighted by four baskets from Lucas, including three 3-pointers. Lucas' 3s gave the Lady Lions leads of 7-5, 12-5 and finally 19-7 with 13:08 left in the first half.
Following a basket from the Wolverines, the Lady Lions then ran off seven more points. Two free throws from Lucas, a 3-pointer from Ariel Edwards and a basket from Talia East gave the Lady Lions their largest lead of the first half at 26-9.
Penn State coach Coquese Washington said it was important for her team to get off to a quick start and keep it composure against Michigan, unlike it did during it loss to Michigan State on Saturday.
"Against Michigan State, the first seven, eight minutes of the game, it was fine," she said. "It's not just starting the game well, it's playing for an extended stretch the way you're capable of playing and not allowing fatigue or missed calls by the referee or missed shots or turnovers to get you off kilter. We did a much better job of that tonight."
Penn State's lead stayed at double digits for the rest of the first half and the Lady Lions went into the intermission with a 41-29 lead.
The Lady Lions opened the second half by connecting on four of their first five shots and building their lead up 18 points. Baskets from Nikki Greene, Lucas, Gray and Bentley made the score 49-31 and forced a timeout from Michigan with 17:24 remaining.
From there, the Wolverines got no closer than 14 points the rest of the way.
The Lady Lions will now play four of their next five games on the road, starting Sunday afternoon at Nebraska. The Cornhuskers beat the Lady Lions, 71-63, at the Bryce Jordan Center last month in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
"Playing on their home court they draw, they have a great fan base," Washington said. "It's going to be a loud, boisterous gym, and our defense and our communication has to be even better."
MICHIGAN (13-4, 2-2): Boylan 4-10 1-1 10, Jordan 2-6 0-0 4, Ryan 2-6 0-0 5, Reynolds 2-10 0-2 5, Sheffler 3-11 0-1 7, Harris 0-0 0-0 0, Arnold 2-3 0-0 5, Thompson 6-16 4-4 18, Elmblad 1-4 4-4 7, Seto 1-1 0-0 2. Totals - 23-67 9-12 63.
PENN STATE (12-4, 12-2): Gray 6-12 2-2 15, Bentley 6-10 0-0 12, Nickson 2-3 2-4 6, Lucas 8-15 3-4 22, Greene 4-5 1-2 9, East 1-1 0-0 2, Edwards 3-6 2-2 9, Studevent -02 0-0 0, Wolfe 1-2 1-2 3, Waldner 0-0 -0 0. Totals - 31-56 11-16 78.
Halftime-Penn State, 41-29. 3-point goals-Michigan 8-25 (Boylan 1-2, Ryan 1-2, Reynolds 1-5, Sheffer 1-5, Arnold 1-2, Thompson 2-6, Elmblad 1-3); Penn State 5-12 (Gray 1-4, Lucas 3-6, Edwards 1-2). Assists-Michigan 14 (Ryan 6); Penn State 19 (Bentley 6). Rebounds-Michigan 33 (Ryan 6); Penn State 42 (Greene 9). Total fouls-Michigan 15, Penn State 19. A-3,567.