UNIVERSITY PARK - Maggie Lucas and the Penn State women's basketball team had plenty of motivation heading into Sunday's game against Texas A&M.
The No. 12 Lady Lions had dropped two of their past three games heading into their match-up with the No. 24 Aggies, including a defeat Wednesday at unranked South Dakota State.
"We wanted to get back to winning," Lucas said.
Led by the senior guard, Penn State did just that.
Lucas scored 26 points to move into third place on the school's all-time scoring list, and Penn State pulled away to a 66-58 victory at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Ariel Edwards added 14 points and Tori Waldner had 11 rebounds for Penn State (7-3), which scored the game's first 12 points and went on to beat a ranked opponent for the first time this season.
Courtney Walker scored 20 points to lead Texas A&M (6-3).
"Coming off of a loss, we were definitely fired up," said Lucas, who had her seventh 20-point game of the season. "We were really focused on executing our game plan today. Coach [Coquese Washington] keeps telling us that, if we stick to the game plan, we will be successful. When we stray away from that, that's when we struggle. It was important for us today to come to our home court and beat a ranked opponent."
Lucas had 17 points in the second half, including seven straight during a decisive 9-0 spurt that gave Penn State a lead it would not relinquish. Her performance increased her career point total to 2,054 points, moving her past Tyra Grant on the school's scoring list.
"Maggie picked up the load," Washington said. "She made some really good shots and she made some tough shots. She did a good job of reading the defense to figure out where her openings were going to be."
Texas A&M was the third ranked opponent to visit the Bryce Jordan Center, following No. 1 Connecticut and No. 4 Notre Dame.
Unlike during their losses to the Huskies and Fighting Irish, the Lady Lions got off to a fast start Sunday. The Aggies missed their first 15 shots and Penn State went ahead 12-0 after Peyton Whitted made one of two free throws with 11:10 left in the first half.
"To start the game, [the] 12-0 run probably could've been about 16-0," Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. "We were missing shots, turning the ball over."
But the Aggies quickly regrouped and tied the game at 15-all four minutes later. Backed by a decisive rebounding advantage, Texas A&M went ahead by eight points before an 11-1 Penn State run gave the Lady Lions a 30-28 halftime lead.
Texas A&M outrebounded Penn State 29-18 in the first half, including a 13-4 advantage on the offensive end.
"We know that they had too many offensive boards in the first half," said Talia East, who finished with eight points and six rebounds. "We had to stop their offense in order to get more rebounds."
The Lady Lions bounced back and limited the Aggies to only three offensive rebounds in the second half.
"That's the difference," Blair said. "They did a better job on the defensive boards in the second half."
After a layup from Texas A&M's Achiri Ade tied the game at 30-all just seconds into the second half, Penn State went on its decisive run.
A basket from Dara Taylor gave the Lady Lions the lead for good. A jumper from Lucas made it 34-30, and she followed that with a steal and a layup to make it a six-point game. Thirty seconds later, her 3-point play gave Penn State a 39-30 lead with 17:21 left in the game. Penn State led the rest of the way.
TEXAS A&M (58): Williams 4-10 3-6 11, Jones 0-4 0-0 0, Walker 7-20 4-4 20, Gilbert 1-5 0-2 2, Ade 1-5 0-0 2, Knox 0-3 4-4 4, Terry 0-0 0-0 0, Jennings 0-1 0-0 0, Grant 0-0 0-0 0, Scott 6-12 0-0 14, Mitchell 1-4 3-4 5. Totals 20-64 14-20 58.
PENN STATE (66): Taylor 2-12 2-2 6, East 4-8 0-0 8, Edwards 5-13 4-4 14, Lucas 10-20 5-5 26, Waldner 1-6 2-5 4, Agee 0-4 3-4 3, Harris 0-0 0-0 0, Mitchell 0-1 4-4 4, Whitted 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 22-64 21-26 66.
Halftime-Penn St. 30-28. 3-Point Goals-Texas A&M 4-17 (Walker 2-4, Scott 2-6, Williams 0-2, Knox 0-2, Jones 0-3), Penn St. 1-7 (Lucas 1-5, Mitchell 0-1, Edwards 0-1). Fouled Out-Williams. Rebounds-Texas A&M 49 (Gilbert 10), Penn St. 41 (Waldner 11). Assists-Texas A&M 10 (Knox 7), Penn St. 10 (Edwards 4). Total Fouls-Texas A&M 26, Penn St. 23. A-4,777.