COLUMBUS, Ohio — Every elite team, it seems, has a player like Maggie Lucas.
When things aren’t going well, she’s the player who is capable of carrying the play until things turn around for everybody else.
She did it Sunday, scoring 23 points, including 12 during a decisive 21-3 run, to lead No. 9 Penn State past Ohio State 74-54.
“(There were) a lot of possessions where we got them deep into the shot clock and she would make a play,” Buckeyes coach Kevin McGuff said. “She’s a great player. She’s one of the best scoring guards in the country. Defensively, we were doing a lot of good things but she would kind of bail them out with a spectacular play. That’s what makes her special and it’s part of what makes them a great team.”
Ahead by two points at the half after taking a 12-3 run into the break, Penn State (18-5, 9-2 Big Ten) took control early in the second half.
Taylor tossed in a 3 from the left baseline on the first possession and, after three missed shots and a turnover by Ohio State, Lucas hit a perimeter jumper for a 43-36 lead. Lucas then followed two more Ohio State misses with baskets — one a step-back 15-footer and the other a layup in transition — to push the lead to 11.
“A lot of times at the beginning of games, I’m seeing a lot more pressure,” said the senior guard, who hit 9 of 14 shots from the field, including half of her six 3-point attempts. “Once the game goes on, you can find some breakdowns.”
On the heels of the spurt to finish the half, the Lions ran off the first nine points of the second half.
Scoreless for the first 4:27 of the half, the Buckeyes picked up the next five points but couldn’t solve Penn State’s zone defense. Two Lucas free throws, a fast-break layup by Edwards, Peyton Whitted’s follow of her own miss and Lucas’ assist pass to Taylor for a layup gave the Lions a 59-44 lead with just over eight minutes left.
The outcome was never in doubt again.
At one point in the first half, Lucas badly missed a shot behind the arc. The Ohio State student section let her hear about it with a continual chant of “Air Ball!” every time she touched it for the rest of the game.
It didn’t upset her. Instead, it inspired her.
“Maybe a little bit,” she said with a smile. “It’s fun. I love that kind of stuff. It’s fun to see the crowd that into it.”
She didn’t make many mistakes from that errant shot on.
“Maggie’s a very, very talented player,” Ohio State guard Amy Scullion said. “She has such a nice shot that even if she misses one I don’t think she’s going to think too much about taking the next one.”
Dara Taylor and Talia East each added 12 points for the Nittany Lions, who took over the top spot in the conference a day earlier when Michigan State lost at Nebraska. They had won six in a row before a 73-70 loss to Iowa on Thursday night.
“That’s one of the things that I like about our team is we’re pretty resilient,” Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. “In Maggie’s time here, that’s one of the things that we’ve done — we’ve bounced back when we hit some adversity and suffered through some tough games. I was pleased to see that continue this afternoon.”
Raven Ferguson and Ameryst Alston each scored 16 points for the Buckeyes (14-13, 4-7), who have lost six of eight.
Penn State has won five straight against Ohio State.
“Even through the down times, they kept playing and doing what they do,” McGuff said of the Nittany Lions. “When we started going in a bad direction, we kind of spiraled. That points back to their leadership and their experience kind of carried the day for them.”