Maggie Lucas scored 22 points, rallying Penn State from an early scare in a 62-56 win over Wichita State on Sunday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Lucas led the Lions (23-7) back from an 11-point hole and becoming an unwanted piece of tournament history: A No. 3 seed has never lost a game to a 14.
The Shockers (26-7) tried to make it happen, but could never sustain the early spurt that would have allowed them to pull off one of the biggest upsets in tournament history.
Lucas, the two-time Big Ten player of the year, led Penn State’s 17-0 run to open the second half that spurred them into the second round for the fourth straight year.
Wichita State, down by 12, had one last comeback. Michaela Dapprich’s three-pointer with 1:53 left brought WSU within 56-54. Penn State’s Talia East went inside for a tough basket, and Lucas added a pair of late free throws to seal the win.
Lucas has led the Lions to four straight tournament appearances, three regular-season Big Ten titles, and she holds the team and conference record for three-pointers made.
She changed the game with a pair of threes in the first half, then built a double-digit lead with another in the second.
Lucas buried a three-pointer for a 12-point lead, then flashed three fingers to the crowd, which was going wild with every basket.
The Shockers scored a field goal with 19 second left in the first half, then missed 10 straight to open the second, finally scoring on Dapprich’s three-pointer with about 12:18 left. She hit another three on the next possession that made it an eight-point game.
Determined to win and make history, the Shockers wouldn’t go away. Alie Decker’s three made it 50-45 and briefly quieted the crowd and the Shockers kept it a five-point game with just under minutes left.
Dapprich, who hit 5 of 10 threes, scored 19 points. Alex Harden had 16 for the Shockers.
Ariel Edwards scored 17 points for the Lions, and East had 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Wichita State, playing hours before the top-seed men’s team played in St. Louis, took control on 10-0 run early in the first half and went bouncing and yelling into a timeout looking every bit a team ready to pull off a true shocker. The Shockers stretched the lead to 11 before the Lions found their groove.
Lucas hit back-to-back three-pointers that sliced the lead to four, then she cupped her ears to hear those raucous cheers and chest-bumped her teammates on the way off the court. Lucas, as she has so often for the Lions, delivered another clutch bucket a possession later. Edwards drove the lane and her shot slowly rolled around the rim before the ball plopped through. She was fouled, missed the free throw, but Lucas hit a jumper off the offensive rebound and Penn State pulled to 24-23.
The Shockers made 7 of 8 free throws in the first half and Penn State was only 1 of 5, enough of a difference to send Wichita State into halftime with a 30-25 lead.