COLUMBUS, Ohio - With her team getting outplayed and trailing by nine points at the break, Penn State coach Coquese Washington didn't hold back in the locker room.
Her veteran players took it from there.
Maggie Lucas scored 14 of her 18 points after the half and the eighth-ranked Nittany Lions saved their best for last in beating Ohio State, 71-56, on Sunday, their 14th consecutive Big Ten win to set a school record.
The victory, in which they outscored the Buckeyes 43-19 after halftime, also gave them their fastest start since the 1993-94 season.
"At halftime Co really got into us, she really challenged us and she was yelling and screaming," said Alex Bentley, who finished with 16 points. "We just knew we had to come out and play [better] defense. So that's what we did."
Lucas said the main thrust of Washington's halftime talk was to stick together.
"We have a lot of trust for each other," she said. "We kind of had to be reminded of that after the first half, that we've played together for a long time and we can rely on each other."
Washington conceded that she was rather forceful in making her points in the locker room - "in my own way," she said quietly. It was clear the Nittany Lions got the message.
"We played with a lot more energy and focus and trust the second half," she said. "The first half I just felt like we didn't play together on either end of the floor. That was the most effective adjustment we made going into the second half was playing together more on both ends of the floor, communicating more, rotating quicker. We had a lot more energy the second half and that allowed us to execute the game plan."
Nikki Greene had 11 points and 13 rebounds for Penn State (17-2, 7-0 Big Ten), which has won 11 in a row since a 67-52 loss at Connecticut on Dec. 6. It's the sixth-longest winning streak in program history.
Tayler Hill, the Big Ten's leading scorer, had 28 points for Ohio State (11-9, 1-6), which had won the last six meetings at home against Penn State dating to Feb. 27, 2005. Ameryst Alston added 12 and Amber Stokes returned to the lineup and provided some energy after missing the last four games with a sprained knee.
It was another disappointing day for the Buckeyes, who have been a perennial power in the conference and haven't lost more than six games in Big Ten play in any of coach Jim Foster's 10 previous seasons.
"It's attitudinal. You've got to be tougher," he said, referring as much to one lapse in the second half as to his team in general. "You've got to want to work through it and you've got to fight."
Hill scored on Ohio State's first possession of the second half to stretch the lead to 11. But then came the one possession that Foster was talking about.
Penn State missed two field goal attempts, hit two of four free throws and got a 3-pointer from Lucas - all on one trip down the court, thanks to two offensive rebounds off missed free throws in the same sequence. When Bentley then stole the ball on the next play and hit the coast-to-coast layup, the Nittany Lions had made up seven points in 33 seconds with the ball barely leaving Penn State's end of the floor.
With the Buckeyes hanging on to a 41-39 lead, the Nittany Lions then took the lead for good with a 9-0 run.
Greene tied it before Lucas made it 43-41 on a jumper in the lane. After Ohio State missed four straight attempts from the field, Ariel Edwards raced to the hoop for a layup in transition and was fouled, completing the three-point play. Greene then closed the uprising the way she started it with a bucket inside, off an assist from Lucas, for a 48-41 advantage.
Ohio State never got closer than five points again as the Nittany Lions slowly pulled away.
Washington said that even when the Buckeyes were on the 12-0 run and led by 11, she tried to be calm and patient that her charges would work their way out of it.
"We try not to get rattled either way. We try not to get too giddy when we get off to great starts and we try not to get despondent when we don't get off to a great start," she said. "We want to play for 40 minutes and play with a high level of focus and intelligence."
PENN ST. (17-2): Nickson 1-5 0-0 2, Greene 4-9 3-5 11, Taylor 2-4 1-1 5, Bentley 8-18 0-0 16, Lucas 6-16 4-4 18, Agee 1-1 0-0 2, East 2-2 0-0 4, Edwards 2-6 5-5 9, Studevent 2-3 0-0 4, Waldner 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 28-66 13-15 71.
OHIO ST. (11-9): Moore 1-2 1-1 3, Adams 2-7 1-5 5, Hill 8-20 7-10 28, Alston 3-7 6-7 12, Ferguson 0-4 0-0 0, Stokes 2-4 0-0 4, Craft 0-0 0-0 0, Dobranic 2-5 0-0 4, Ellerbe 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 18-51 15-23 56.
Halftime-Ohio St. 37-28. 3-Point Goals-Penn St. 2-10 (Lucas 2-6, Edwards 0-1, Bentley 0-3), Ohio St. 5-13 (Hill 5-9, Alston 0-2, Ferguson 0-2). Fouled Out-Taylor. Rebounds-Penn St. 42 (Greene 13), Ohio St. 35 (Adams 12). Assists-Penn St. 6 (Bentley, Lucas 2), Ohio St. 11 (Adams 4). Total Fouls-Penn St. 21, Ohio St. 14. A-6,802.