UNIVERSITY PARK - The Northwestern women's basketball team didn't hold a lead beyond the first 90 seconds Thursday at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Still, the visitors proved to be a pesky opponent for No. 9 Penn State.
Maggie Lucas had 26 points and Kaliyah Mitchell made six free throws in the final 34 seconds to seal the Lady Lions' 82-73 win over the Wildcats.
Ariel Edwards scored 11 of her 15 points in the second half and Tori Waldner added a career-high 14 for Penn State (21-5, 12-2 Big Ten), which won its fourth straight.
Maggie Lyon had 17 points to lead Northwestern (14-12, 4-9).
Penn State, which never trailed after Dara Taylor's basket tied the game at 5-5, led Northwestern by as many as 13 points in the second half.
But behind a late 11-3 spurt, the Wildcats closed to within 76-71 after Christen Inman's lay-up with 52 seconds left.
"That's who Northwestern is," Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. "That's how they play. They're aggressive and athletic. Pesky is a good word. You look at the games they've played and they've been in every game. They keep every game close."
Northwestern had a chance to draw even closer, after Lauren Douglas stole the ball from Edwards on Penn State's next possession. But Douglas missed a jumper and, 12 seconds later, Mitchell began her multiple trips to the free-throw line.
The close finish was of little consolation to the Wildcats, who fell to 1-18 all-time at Penn State.
"We had plenty of chances," Northwestern coach Joe McKeown said. "The times when we had to make a bucket, we couldn't and they did. We're a good team. Hanging in there is not our goal."
Before the close finish, Penn State had built a double-digit lead late in the second half behind Edwards' scoring.
The senior had 10 points in a span of 3 minutes, 19 seconds, helping the Lady Lions turned a six-point lead into a 73-60 advantage with 2:42 left.
"I guess I did what I supposed to do the whole game," Edwards said. "At halftime, we talked about rebounding and how we hadn't been attacking the offensive glass like we should be."
The Northwestern coach called Edwards, who added six rebounds and three assists, the most underrated player in the Big Ten.
"We were chasing them from behind in the second half," McKeown said. "Those two [baskets] hurt us. They just came at the wrong time."
Thursday night's game was tied 12-12 six minutes in, when the teams traded a pair of scoring runs.
Lucas got things started when she was fouled by Douglas on a 3-point attempt and hit all three free throws. Twenty seconds later, she turned her own steal into another basket. Her efforts started a run of 11 consecutive points for the Lady Lions, who were up 23-12 after Peyton Whitted's lay-up with 11:24 left.
Lyon's 3-pointer broke the scoring drought for Northwestern and started a 10-0 run for the Wildcats. Consecutive baskets by Nia Coffey cut Penn State's lead to four points and a lay-up off a fast break from Inman made it a 1-point game.
A 3-pointer from Lucas gave Penn State its first points in four minutes and pushed its lead to 26-22 with 7:23 left. The Lady Lions, who led by as many as seven points over the final minutes of the first half, went into the intermission with a 38-32 advantage.
NORTHWESTERN (14-12): Deary 2-6 0-1 4, Cohen 5-8 2-2 14, Coffey 7-10 0-0 14, Inman 4-10 0-0 8, Lyon 6-14 0-0 17, McKeown 0-1 0-0 0, Douglas 5-16 5-7 16, Taylor 0-0 0-0 0, Roser 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-66 7-10 73.
PENN STATE (21-5): Taylor 4-10 3-4 11, East 1-4 1-2 3, Edwards 6-19 3-4 15, Lucas 7-16 7-8 26, Waldner 6-11 2-2 14, Agee 0-1 0-0 0, Harris 0-1 0-0 0, Mitchell 1-5 7-7 9, Whitted 1-4 2-2 4. Totals 26-71 25-29 82.
Halftime-Penn St. 38-32. 3-Point Goals-Northwestern 8-23 (Lyon 5-9, Cohen 2-3, Douglas 1-4, Coffey 0-1, McKeown 0-1, Deary 0-2, Inman 0-3), Penn St. 5-13 (Lucas 5-8, Edwards 0-2, Taylor 0-3). Fouled Out-Coffey, Douglas. Rebounds-Northwestern 40 (Douglas 8), Penn St. 46 (Waldner 9). Assists-Northwestern 12 (Deary 7), Penn St. 11 (Taylor 4). Total Fouls-Northwestern 22, Penn St. 12. A-3,960.