STANFORD, Calif. — Maggie Lucas buried her face in a towel on the bench as her day, her NCAA tournament and college career came to a disappointing end. Stanford’s swarming defense simply shut down the Big Ten’s best player.
Lucas went scoreless in the second half of third-seeded Penn State’s 82-57 loss to No. 2 seed Stanford on the Cardinal’s home floor Sunday, and finished with just six points in the regional semifinals.
“This was really hard, when you’re at this point in your career,” Lucas said. “Certainly we didn’t want to go out the way we did today, but I am proud of the team and what we accomplished this year — a lot of people didn’t expect us to do what we did.”
Ariel Edwards scored 22 points and Dara Taylor 11 for the Lady Lions (24-8), who matched Stanford’s physical play early but couldn’t sustain it and hurt themselves with 15 turnovers.
“Maggie Lucas hasn’t had six points since third grade,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “She can flat out score.”
Chiney Ogwumike had 29 points and 15 rebounds and Mikaela Ruef produced a career performance on both ends for Stanford. The Cardinal (32-3) built a big first-half lead and rolled against the Lady Lions to move into Tuesday night’s regional final against either No. 4 seed North Carolina or top-seeded South Carolina.
Ruef recovered from getting poked in the eye early to contribute 11 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and two steals. She was cheered at every chance by the raucous home crowd at Maples Pavilion. Amber Orrange added 18 points in Stanford’s ninth straight NCAA tournament home win.
It hardly mattered that Hall of Famer VanDerveer spent a day each of the past two summers at her New York home providing tips to Penn State coach Coquese Washington.
The Cardinal figured they more than earned their home-court comforts, having traveled all the way to Iowa as a surprised No. 2 seed for a pair of 19-point NCAA victories and then home to the Bay Area — rather than getting to play in West locales of Los Angeles or Seattle.
After Ogwumike’s uncontested layin with 6:37 to play, roaring fans jumped to their feet during the ensuing timeout — some even holding posters of Ogwumike’s face. She gave everyone a scare going down hard with 2:22 remaining while going for a rebound on the defensive end, but got up to make both free throws then took a seat for good.
Stanford is unbeaten at home this season and also in the NCAA tournament at Maples since a second-round shocker by Florida State in 2007. The Cardinal have won 29 of 33 tournament games on campus overall.
Speedy Stanford freshman Lili Thompson pressured Big Ten Player of the Year Lucas, who shot 3 for 14 and missed all five of her 3-point tries. She went 0 for 6 from the floor in the second half.
“I don’t think she was necessarily frustrated,” said teammate Talia East, who had 10 points, four rebounds and three steals. “I think it was jitters. We all were a little bit jittery.”
Thompson, who had 11 points, said she “just wanted to shut her down and force other people to score, and that’s how I could contribute to the win.”
Fifth-year senior Ruef, who shot 5 of 7, sat down to a standing ovation with 2:36 left.
At the perfect time, the Cardinal put together one of their most complete games all season.
“For us, probably coming back to the Pac-12 tournament where we stunk it up and we got sent home, that got everybody’s attention,” VanDerveer said.
Defending the perimeter was a top priority for Stanford, and the Lady Lions shot 4 for 12 from 3-point range. Penn State committed 15 turnovers, including seven in the first half to Stanford’s one miscue and 10 assists.
Bonnie Samuelson hit a pair of 3-pointers to help the Cardinal to a 44-30 halftime lead while shooting 47.4 percent.
In one impressive first-half sequence, Ruef grabbed the rebound on the defensive end, dribbled out of trouble and passed. She then got in position for an offensive rebound and putback that gave the Cardinal their first double-digit lead. Penn State called timeout, down 33-23 with 4:53 left in the first half.
Frustrated Penn State fans chanted “Neutral site! Neutral site!” in the game’s closing minutes.
“I’m not in favor of it,” Washington said of playing on Stanford’s home floor. “It’s an extremely difficult task to ask. I’m glad the NCAA has gone back to neutral sites in the regional next year moving forward. I think that’s important for our game.”