STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Maggie Lucas scored 17 points, and No. 8 Penn State withstood a second-half rally by No. 13 Purdue with defense to reclaim sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with a 69-61 victory Monday night.
After struggling in the first half, 6-foot-4 center Nikki Greene (six points, nine rebounds) gave the Lady Lions (18-3, 8-1) an interior presence in the game's final 6:39, when Penn State finished off the Boilermakers (18-4, 7-2) with a 12-6 run.
Purdue had narrowed a 12-point deficit to 57-55 before going the next five-plus minutes without a field goal.
Lucas and backcourt mate Alex Bentley (13 points) took advantage in a chippy game to get the lead back to double digits in the final minutes.
Courtney Moses (21 points) scored six points in a 13-second span to get within 67-61 with 1:05 left, but Bentley helped Penn State hold on with a bucket and steal.
The Lady Lions rebounded nicely from a 63-61 upset loss on the road last week to Wisconsin, one of the worst teams in the Big Ten.
This one almost got away too after Penn State went cold from the field midway through the second half.
The Boilermakers beat Penn State at its own game and outraced their opponents for easy shots down the floor in a 7-0 run over a three-minute span to get within 50-48 with 9:23 left.
The Big Ten contenders traded buckets until the Lady Lions pulled away late. Purdue missed about nine shots and committed three turnovers during a five-minute stretch without a field goal until Moses ended Purdue's scoreless stretch with a 3 with 1:28 left.
Too little, too late. The Boilermakers couldn't recover from a 32-31 halftime deficit after committing 12 first-half turnovers.
Penn State relied on pressure defense and interior play, with Mia Nickson (11 points) and reserve Talia East (nine points, six rebounds) giving the Lady Lions energy in the lane before halftime until Greene stepped up in the final few minutes.
Drew Mingo added 13 points for Purdue, while Sam Ostarello had 13 rebounds including 12 on the defensive end. Purdue missed out on its only chance this year to beat the Lady Lions.