The Lady Lions season and the career of one of its best all-time players Maggie Lucas is over, following a loss last night to Stanford in the NCAA Regional Semifinals.
The host team definitely had an advantage with an enthusiastic crowd that included former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (Matt McGloin just couldn’t counter that presence). This is the last year the host team will have home court advantage in the semi-finals — a situation that has seemingly plagued the Lady Lions over the past few seasons.
“I’m glad the NCAA has gone back to neutral sites in the regional next year moving forward,” head coach Coquese Washington said. “I think that’s important for our game. But that’s the path that we had at hand today, and I think it’s on one hand a good experience for our kids to come out and play in Maples Pavilion and play on this campus and have this kind of game. But in terms of the competitive equity for the NCAA Tournament, I’m glad we’re going back to neutral sites for the regionals.”
The Lady Lions played tough for the first several minutes of the game, going basket for basket with the Cardinals. The Lions took the lead from a 6-0 run that was started by a jumper from Lucas nine minutes into the game. They only held onto this lead briefly, as the Cardinals responded with a 14-0 run to take their first double-digit lead of the game at 33-23. That lead would remain for the rest of the game.
Stanford closed out the first half with a 25-7 run to take a 44-30 lead. Ariel Edwards scored all of Penn State’s seven points, and she had 10 points in the first half.
The Lady Lions opened the second half by scoring the first five of seven points. Dara Taylor had a three to end the 5-2 run and brought the Lions within 11 at 46-35. This was the closest the Lions would come to Stanford for the rest of the game.
The Cardinals expanded their lead to 18 with ten minutes left in the game. Penn State was able to cut their lead to 13 with a jumper by East and a three by Taylor to end a 5-0 run, 63-50, but they were never able to come any closer. Stanford ended the game with a decisive twenty-five point advantage, 82-57.
Edwards worked hard all game for the Lions to try to start a comeback. She had a team high 22 points; it was her fourth twenty-point game in the last six games. Taylor had 11 points and five assists, and senior Talia East had 10 points. The usually dominant Lucas was silenced by the Cardinals — she only had six points and did not score in the second half of the game.
The loss ends the historic run by this senior class, which is only the third class in school history to notch more than 100 win (101-31). Lucas finishes her career as the No. 2 scorer in school history with 2,510 points, fourth in the Big Ten in career scoring, and first in three-point field goals and free throw percentages. This was the second time Penn State has reached the Regional Semifinals in the past three seasons.