Seniors making sure Lady Lions stay alive

UNIVERSITY PARK – Currently, they rank as the second-most successful senior class in Penn State women’s basketball history.

Tuesday night it delivered an impressive performance in their final game at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Maggie Lucas and Dara Taylor each scored 22 points, and Penn State led by as many as 28 on its way to an 83-61 win over Florida in a NCAA tournament second-round game.

Penn State (24-7), the third seed in the Stanford Regional, advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second time in three seasons under coach Coquese Washington and 13th time overall. The Lady Lions will face No. 2 seed and host Stanford on Sunday in Stanford, Calif.

“It’s great to move on to the Sweet 16,” Lucas said. “It’s bittersweet, leaving the Bryce Jordan Center, but I’m going out on a win. I couldn’t ask for much more. I’m glad to be in this situation.”

Ariel Edwards added 18 points for the Lady Lions, who trailed 11th-seeded Florida (20-13) by scores of 2-0 and 2-1 before grabbing the lead for good with 17:16 left in the first half.

Kayla Lewis had 20 points to lead the Gators.

The win was No. 101 for seniors Lucas, Edwards and Talia East, which ranks second only behind the Class of 1994’s 103 victories. Fellow senior Taylor joined the Lady Lions before the 2011-12 season.

On Tuesday, the four seniors combined for 85.5 percent of Penn State’s scoring.

“Having our seniors, Maggie, Ariel and Dara, getting almost 20 points apiece just say goodbye to the fans at the BJC that way was amazing,” said East, who added nine points. “And the icing on the cake is the Sweet 16. I couldn’t have asked for anything else.”

Penn State outscored Florida 26-9 over the first 8 minutes, 23 second of the second half, turning an 11-point lead into a 69-41 advantage. The result was the program’s 20 victory by more than 20 points in NCAA tournament play.

“It’s the most complete game we’ve played all season,” Washington said. “I’m really proud of the team that they were able to do that in this moment. Tonight, they were focused. It wasn’t about history or the future. Tonight, we had everything flowing and clicking together.”

The only blemish for the Lady Lions was a 17-4 run that helped the Gators close to within 15 points with 4:37 left. But two free throws and a lay-up by East got the lead back over 20 and helped seal the win for Penn State.

“We lost our poise at that point, but we got it back,” Washington said. “That is what’s important.”

With Penn State ahead 83-61 and 33 seconds left, Washington called a timeout and removed her seniors from the game.

“I’m proud of my fellow seniors,” Taylor said. “How hard we work, to see it all come together at this point is really amazing. They’ve all worked so hard. I’m proud of them.”

Penn State was up 6-4 when it took the control of the game with an 11-0 run over a nearly five-minute stretch. Lucas’ 3-pointer gave Penn State its biggest lead of the first half, 20-7, with 10:58 left.

Florida cut its deficit to six points following a four-point play from Carlie Needles and again following a 3 from January Miller but got no closer the rest of the half. Penn State led 43-32 at the intermission.

Note: Stanford, the No. 6 team in the country, has not lost at home this season. The Cardinal beat South Dakota and Florida State to advance to the Sweet 16. Penn State will play Stanford for the first time since the 2001-02 season. The teams have split two previous meetings.

FLORIDA (20-13)

Williams 0-3 0-0 0, Needles 4-12 1-1 13, Bonds 6-9 2-5 14, Peoples 1-7 2-4 4, Lewis 8-12 4-5 20, Miller 2-3 0-0 5, Bannister 2-3 0-0 5, Svete 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-50 9-15 61.


Edwards 6-12 5-6 18, Waldner 1-4 0-0 2, East 3-5 3-4 9, Taylor 8-13 5-7 22, Lucas 5-15 8-8 22, Agee 0-0 0-0 0, Sevillian 0-0 0-0 0, Harris 0-0 0-0 0, Mitchell 3-8 2-2 8, Whitted 1-1 0-0 2, DeGraaf 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-58 23-27 83.

Halftime-Penn St. 43-32. 3-Point Goals-Florida 6-21 (Needles 4-11, Miller 1-2, Bannister 1-2, Svete 0-1, Peoples 0-5), Penn St. 6-17 (Lucas 4-12, Edwards 1-1, Taylor 1-2, Mitchell 0-2). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Florida 25 (Lewis 9), Penn St. 38 (Taylor 8). Assists-Florida 11 (Peoples, Williams 3), Penn St. 14 (Lucas, Taylor 4). Total Fouls-Florida 18, Penn St. 13. Technical-Florida Bench. A-3,500.