UNIVERSITY PARK - The Penn State women's basketball team used a dominating defensive effort late in the second half Monday to reclaim sole possession of first place in the Big Ten Conference.
Maggie Lucas scored 17 points and the No. 8 Lady Lions held Purdue to one basket in the final six minutes of a 69-61 victory at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Alex Bentley had 13 points and Mia Nickson added 11 for Penn State (18-3, 8-1 Big Ten), which broke a tie up top of the conference standings with the No. 13 Boilermakers. Courtney Moses had 21 points to lead Purdue (18-4, 7-2).
Penn State, which never trailed, bounced back from its first conference loss of the season Thursday at Wisconsin with its 17th straight home victory.
"We're very happy about it," Lucas said. "It's a good team win. Purdue's a very, very good team. To come off that last loss and to come into this game prepared it's a big win for us."
The Lady Lions led by 13 points after Nickson's basket made it 36-23 with 19:33 left. Purdue slowly erased its deficit over the middle part of the second half. The Boilermakers climbed to within two points on four occasions, the last coming when Drey Mingo's lay-up cut Penn State's lead to 57-55 with 6:39 remaining.
From that point, the Boilermakers missed their next nine shots, including three lay-ups.
"The key to the game was at the end," Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said. "Our players did a great job of being aggressive. We had opportunities. They just didn't go our way today."
"For the most part, we did a good job in making them take tough shots," added Penn State coach Coquese Washington. "I was pleased with our effort on the defensive end."
Penn State went ahead by six points with five minutes left after a lay-up from Nikki Greene and put back by Nickson. The Lady Lions then had their own offensive problems, as neither team scored for over two minutes.
"We could have played a little bit better," Washington said. "We did do a good job of ball movement and time management. We tried not to take quick jumpers and forced them to play defense."
Lucas' jumper with 2:43 left broke the scoring drought and made it 63-55. Two free throws by Greene and a jumper from Nickson off Lucas' steal capped a 10-run and gave the Lady Lions a 12-point lead.
Moses hit a 3-pointer and later made three free throws to pull Purdue to within six points at 67-61. But Bentley's basket with under a minute left made it an eight-point game and steals by Nickson and Bentley sealed it for the Lady Lions.
"Our defense was key," Lucas said. "[Bentley's] so quick and she's got those long arms. She was able to get a steal and come through in the clutch."
Penn State jumped out to an 18-9 lead nine minutes in. It was just the start the Lady Lions were looking for coming off a disappointing, last-second loss to the Badgers.
"We certainly played with a lot of energy," Washington said. "I thought we played a pretty good game offensively. We wanted to get a lot of people involved. We had good ball movement."
Lucas' jumper gave Penn State a 20-12 lead. The Lady Lions scored just one time in the next three minutes and the Boilermakers cut into their lead. Purdue scored nine of the next 11 points and Taylor Manuel's jumper pulled the Boilermakers to within one point at 22-21.
Purdue went without a basket from the field for the final 5:47 of the half and Penn State surged ahead. Talia East had a basket and two free throws during a 12-second span to give Penn State a seven-point lead. The Lady Lions went into halftime up 34-23.
PURDUE (18-4): Moses 5-8 7-7 21, Williams 1-4 0-0 2, Houser 1-5 2-4 5, Mingo 6-8 1-2 13, Ostarello 2-8 0-2 4, Wilson 3-8 0-0 6, Redmon 0-0 0-0 0, Poston 0-0 0-0 0, Manuel 4-10 2-4 10. Totals 22-51 12-19 61.
PENN ST. (18-3): Taylor 1-7 2-3 5, Bentley 6-15 0-0 13, Nickson 5-11 1-2 11, Lucas 6-13 4-4 17, Greene 2-7 2-3 6, Agee 0-0 0-0 0, East 2-2 5-7 9, Edwards 3-5 0-0 6, Studevent 0-0 0-0 0, Waldner 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 26-61 14-19 69.
Halftime-Penn St. 34-23. 3-Point Goals-Purdue 5-13 (Moses 4-5, Houser 1-2, Mingo 0-1, Ostarello 0-1, Williams 0-1, Wilson 0-3), Penn St. 3-10 (Taylor 1-1, Bentley 1-2, Lucas 1-6, Edwards 0-1). Fouled Out-East. Rebounds-Purdue 35 (Ostarello 13), Penn St. 36 (Greene 9). Assists-Purdue 15 (Houser, Manuel, Moses, Williams 3), Penn St. 7 (Taylor 4). Total Fouls-Purdue 20, Penn St. 18. A-5,030.