BATON ROUGE, La. - Maggie Lucas's sizzling start and composed free throw shooting down the stretch provided the latest example of why Penn State has performed so well in its opponents' arenas all season long.
Lucas scored 30 points and fourth-seeded Penn State moved on to the third round of the women's NCAA tournament with a 90-80 victory over No. 5 seed LSU on Tuesday night.
Ariel Edwards scored 15 points and Mia Nickson had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Lady Lions (26-6), who will play Connecticut in Kingston, R.I., on Sunday in the regional semifinals. That game will be the first third-round appearance for fifth-year Penn State coach Coquese Washington.
LaSondra Barrett had 18 points and 12 rebounds for LSU (23-11), while Krystal Forthan added 15 points and Bianca Lutley 14 points and 10 rebounds. Barrett's nine made free throws made her LSU's all-time leader with 497, surpassing Sylvia Fowles' 494.
Lucas was 7 of 12 shooting, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range. The Lady Lions' leading scorer also hit all 11 of her free throws, including eight in the final 1:10 of the game to ensure there would be no miracle comebacks for the Lady Tigers.
The game was close most of the way and included 10 ties.
LSU took its largest lead, 50-44, early in the second half, when Barrett scored four points during a 9-2 run that concluded with Theresa Plaisance's 3.
Penn State, which was 10-3 on the road this season, seized momentum right back with a six straight points, tying it at 50 on Nickson's free throws. The teams then stayed within a basket of each other until Edwards' floater and Nikki Greene's short jump hook put Penn State ahead 67-61 with 5:25 to go.
LSU briefly got as close as 67-65 on Jones' inside basket, but Nickson scored inside, then Edwards and Bentley each made free throws to push Penn State's lead to eight. LSU was able to get as close as three points twice after that, the last time on Barrett's three-point play that made it 76-73, but Zhaque Gray hit a layup soon after and Penn State started hitting free throws to close it out.
Gray and Alex Bentley each scored 10 for Penn State, which shot 44.6 percent (29 of 65). Adrienne Webb scored 11 and Plaisance 10 for the Lady Tigers, who shot 37 percent (27 of 73) and were hurt by 18 turnovers.
The virtual LSU home-game opened with a boisterous crowd overwhelmingly dressed in purple and gold on its feet in anticipation of the Lady Tigers' first basket. They remained standing for nearly three minutes while LSU had missed three shots and turned the ball over on its first four possessions.
Penn State raced to a 9-0 lead, beginning with Lucas' 3 from the corner. Nickson followed with a pair of free throws and a tough inside bank-shot over Courtney Jones, then Lucas hit a floater in the lane, after which LSU coach Nikki Caldwell called timeout.
LSU finally scored on Jeanne Kenney's runner, then quickly turned a defensive stop into transition free throws by Jones.
Penn State led 14-7 after Lucas' second 3, but Forthan responded with a 3 of her own that ignited an 11-2 run. The spurt was capped by Lutley's spin move and layup, giving LSU its first lead at 15-14.
Neither team was able to build much of a gap for the rest of the half.
Lucas wound up draining five of her six 3-point attempts during the opening 20 minutes, and she had 19 points before halftime. But while Lucas started 6 of 8 shooting, the rest of her team started 6 of 23. The Lady Tigers had an 18-5 advantage in bench scoring during the first half and hit 11 of their first 12 free throws, the last of which by Webb put LSU ahead 37-36 at halftime.