UNIVERSITY PARK - One week after setting a Bryce Jordan Center points record, Maggie Lucas struggled just to score Sunday afternoon.
Thanks to a strong defensive effort from the Penn State women's basketball team, her offense was not needed. The No. 11 Lady Lions forced 23 turnovers and held visiting South Dakota State to 31.5 percent shooting in a 60-50 victory.
Nikki Greene scored a game-high 17 points for Penn State (9-2), which used a 12-2 run midway through the second half to pull away from the upstart Jackrabbits of the Summit League. Alex Bentley added 13 points and nine rebounds.
Ashley Eide had 14 points to lead South Dakota State (6-5).
Lucas, who scored 39 in the Lady Lions' previous home game, was limited to a season-low nine points. The junior came in as the Big Ten's leading scorer at 22.1 points per game but shot just 2-of-12 from the field, including 1-of-6 from 3-point range. She did not hit her first basket until 5 minutes, 2 seconds were left in the first half.
"Maggie Lucas is human," Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. "She misses shots sometimes. She didn't shoot the ball well. I thought she had great looks. She didn't knock them down."
Lucas was not the only Lady Lions player who struggled from the outset.
Penn State, the Big Ten's top scoring team, failed to find an offensive rhythm in the first half of a back-and-forth physical game and trailed by as many as six points to South Dakota State, who already had upset then-No. 15 Nebraska earlier this season.
The Lady Lions, who led for just over a minute in the first half, fought back to tie the game, 25-25, at the intermission.
"There just seem to be a lid on the basket for both teams," Washington said. "That's part of basketball. It just happens."
Bentley called it frustrating.
"Those nights are going to happen," she said. "That's what I tell my teammates. Nobody's going to have a perfect shooting night every game. A lot of us put a lot of work into our shots. It's just something that you have to learn from. You can't hold you head down when shots aren't falling."
Instead, Penn State relied on its defense to bounce back in the second half.
The Lady Lions held South Dakota State to one basket over the first seven minutes and built its lead to 36-28 after Mia Nickson's lay-up with 13:10 left.
"When you're struggling offensively, you can't worry so much about making shots so much as you have to focus on stopping them from making shots as well and turning up your defense," Washington said. "If you can do that, then you might be able to get some turnovers, some long outlets and get some opportunities in transition."
The Jackrabbits pulled to within three points, at 36-33, after a 3-pointer from Chloe Cornemann and lay-up from Tara Heiser with 12:06 remaining.
From there, Penn State's defense clamped down once again. South Dakota State had one basket over a six-minute stretch, and the Lady Lions put the game away.
Two free throws by Lucas and a lay-up from Greene made it a seven-point game. After a jumper from Nickson, Lucas connected on her only 3-pointer to increase Penn State's lead to 47-35.
Nickson then connected on 1-of-2 free throws to give the Lady Lions a 48-35 lead, their largest of the game, with 6:30 remaining. The Jackrabbits got as close as nine points the rest of the way.
The Lady Lions finished their non-conference schedule when they play host to the New Jersey Institute of Technology at 2 p.m. next Sunday.
S. DAKOTA ST. (6-5): Boever 3-4 0-0 7, Strop 0-1 1-2 1, Dietel 1-5 3-4 5, Waytashek 2-11 2-5 6, Eide 6-18 0-0 14, Heiser 1-2 0-0 2, Cornemann 1-2 4-4 7, Clarin 0-6 1-2 1, Lingle 3-5 1-2 7. Totals 17-54 12-19 50.
PENN ST. (9-2): Taylor 2-7 0-0 4, Bentley 5-13 3-4 13, Nickson 4-6 1-2 9, Lucas 2-12 4-6 9, Greene 6-10 3-3 15, Agee 2-5 0-0 4, Edwards 2-6 0-0 4, Studevent 0-0 0-0 0, Waldner 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 24-61 11-15 60.
Halftime-Tied 25-25. 3-Point Goals-S. Dakota St. 4-14 (Eide 2-7, Cornemann 1-1, Boever 1-2, Strop 0-1, Waytashek 0-3), Penn St. 1-11 (Lucas 1-6, Taylor 0-1, Edwards 0-2, Bentley 0-2). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-S. Dakota St. 40 (Clarin, Dietel, Eide 5), Penn St. 40 (Bentley 9). Assists-S. Dakota St. 9 (Eide 3), Penn St. 11 (Bentley 5). Total Fouls-S. Dakota St. 14, Penn St. 20. A-4,747.