Veterans help PSU women win in opener

UNIVERSITY PARK – On a night when the Penn State women’s basketball team debuted its new-look roster, it was two familiar names who led the way.

Reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Maggie Lucas scored a game-best 33 points and Ariel Edwards added 23, as the No. 13 Lady Lions routed St. Francis 117-77 on Friday at the Bryce Jordan Center in the season opener for both teams.

Dara Taylor had 14 points, and Kaliyah Mitchell added 11 for Penn State, which fell one point shy of tying the school record for most points scored in a game.

Mitchell was one of five freshmen who saw action for the Lady Lions (1-0), who replaced three starters as part of a shakeup of last year’s Big Ten championship squad. Four of those freshmen saw more than 10 minutes of playing time, including Alex Harris, who added 10 rebounds.

“We’re certainly a work in progress,” Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. “We’ve got to continue to find our rhythm and chemistry out there. We had a lot of new faces and a lot of familiar faces in different roles. Each player is still trying to figure out how to be effective on the floor in game situations. It was the seniors who did a really good job.”

None more so than Lucas and Edwards, a pair of key returnees, who combined to score 13 points during a decisive first-half run. Lucas recorded the fifth 30-point game of her career and Edwards topped 20 points for the second time.

“It was easy looks,” said Lucas, who was 16 of 16 from the free-throw line. “Our defense was getting up and getting steals, and I was getting easy layups.”

The Flash (0-1), whose roster also featured seven newcomers, fell behind in the game’s first 30 seconds and were forced to play catch-up the rest of the night.

“I knew there was going to be a lot of scoring,” St. Francis coach Joe Haigh said. “I was hoping we could keep it close and hang with them for a while. There is only so much you can do with their size and the speed. I was proud with the way we played.”

The Red Flash, who shot 33.3 percent from the field, struggled against Penn State’s taller, swarming defense. They were forced to take more than half of their shots (42 of 75) from behind the 3-point line and only converted 23.8 percent from long distance.

“We were playing a team where we couldn’t get a lot of stuff in the paint,” Haigh said. “We practiced for that. I don’t have a problem with shooting that many. I don’t like the percentage. We had some of our better shooters who didn’t make shots today.”

Alexa Hayward scored 20 points to lead St. Francis. Alli Williams, a Bishop Guilfoyle graduate, added 14 points on 3 of 16 shooting. Her 3-pointer with 2:22 left in the first half moved her past Barb Miller and into 10th place on the school’s all-time scoring list.

Penn State, which never trailed, jumped out to an eight-point lead in the game’s first two minutes. Both teams pressed from the outset of a fast-paced game and combined to force 57 turnovers.

“When teams press, one of the results of that is a fast-paced game,” Washington said. “And we like a fast-paced game. When we broke the press, Ariel Edwards did a good job of attacking the basket. When you’re in that type of game, it does spread throughout the team and give them a lot of confidence.”

Taylor started the early run with a lay-up and her steal off the ensuing inbound pass was converted into a 3-point play by Candice Agee. Following a 3-pointer from St. Francis’ Brooklyn Taylor, a pair of baskets from Lucas pushed the advantage to 11-3 at the 18:17 mark.

The Lady Lions forced seven turnovers in the game’s first five minutes and led by seven points at the first media timeout. They increased their lead to double digits for the first time when Talia East’s layup made it 23-13 with 13 minutes left.

The lead was 34-25 when the Lady Lions pulled away with a decisive 15-1 run over a four-minute span.

Lucas started the run with a pair of free throws. Consecutive baskets from Edwards, including a 3-pointer, made it 41-25 with 6:43 left.

The Red Flash, who were limited to just four missed shots during this stretch, got their only points when Williams made one of two free throws. Lucas followed with a pair of free throws. A basket from Edwards and a driving layup from Lucas more than a minute later gave Penn State its largest lead of the first half, 49-26, with 4:47 remaining.

“It felt great (to be back out there),” Lucas said. “I love playing in front of the fans at the BJC. We were itching to get out there and get going again. It’s my senior year, I want to enjoy every second of it.”

Penn State led 55-38 at halftime. The Red Flash pulled to within 13 points on two occasions early in the second half.

Note: Before the game, Penn State raised a banner to commemorate its 2013 Big Ten regular season championship. Former captains Alex Bentley, who just completed her rookie season with the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, and Marisa Wolfe took part in the ceremony. With the victory, the Lady Lions have now won 21 consecutive games at the Bryce Jordan Center, the fifth-longest streak in the program’s history.

ST. FRANCIS (0-1): Taylor 1-11 1-2 4, Brock 3-9 3-3 9, Hayward 7-14 0-0 20, Williams 3-16 7-11 14, Phillips 0-2 0-2 0, Blaine 3-4 4-6 10, Stokes 0-5 0-0 0, Allison 0-2 0-0 0, Murphy 2-4 0-0 6, Thompson 0-1 0-0 0, Keegan 1-1 0-0 2, Bethel 5-6 2-5 12. Totals 25-75 17-29 77.

PENN ST. (1-0): Agee 3-5 1-1 7, Taylor 4-8 6-8 14, Edwards 9-11 4-4 23, Lucas 8-18 16-16 33, Waldner 1-2 1-2 3, East 3-6 2-2 8, Sevillian 2-6 4-4 8, Harris 2-4 2-4 6, Mitchell 5-8 1-2 11, Whitted 2-3 0-0 4, DeGraaf 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 39-73 37-43 117.

Halftime-Penn St. 55-38. 3-Point Goals-St. Francis 10-42 (Hayward 6-12, Murphy 2-2, Williams 1-6, Taylor 1-11, Bethel 0-1, Blaine 0-1, Stokes 0-1, Allison 0-2, Phillips 0-2, Brock 0-4), Penn St. 2-8 (Edwards 1-1, Lucas 1-2, DeGraaf 0-1, Whitted 0-1, Taylor 0-1, Sevillian 0-2). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-St. Francis (Pa.) 33 (Taylor, Williams 5), Penn St. 57 (Harris 10). Assists-St. Francis (Pa.) 12 (Brock 5), Penn St. 18 (Taylor 6). Total Fouls-St. Francis (Pa.) 32, Penn St. 25. A-3,908.