STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – A veteran of three-plus decades on the sideline, Ohio State coach Jim Foster suspects he's never seen his team get as dominated on the boards as the Buckeyes were Monday night at No. 11 Penn State.
Outmuscled in the paint an 84-66 loss to the Lady Lions, No. 8 Ohio State also lost its shot at taking control of the Big Ten.
Instead, the Buckeyes could only watch as white confetti streamed on to the Jordan Center court while their opponents celebrated. Penn State clinched at least a share of its first Big Ten title since 2004.
Foster wasn't in a celebratory mood after watching his team get outrebounded 60-32, including 29-8 on the offensive end.
"This might be the worst we rebounded (in) my life," Foster said, "and certainly the least competitive."
Nikki Greene had 25 points and 15 rebounds, while Mia Nickson also had a double-double with 18 points and 15 boards. She and Greene combined for 25 points and 19 rebounds alone in the first half as the Lady Lions (22-5, 11-3) built a 15-point halftime lead.
It was more than enough cushion against the Buckeyes (23-4, 10-4), who never got closer than 13 the rest of the way. Penn State also clinched the top seed in the conference tournament, which starts next week in Indianapolis.
Samantha Prahalis had 16 points and eight assists for Ohio State, while fellow guard Tayler Hill had 16 points.
But the standout backcourt couldn't keep up with Penn State's powerful frontcourt.
Guard Maggie Lucas (12 points) chipped in, too, with 10 rebounds, the first time that Penn State had three players with double-doubles since 2008.
The boards belonged to Penn State, who also outscored Ohio State 29-0 in second-chance points.
"I have to watch the film I'm not that astute," Foster said when asked to explain the lack of rebounding. "They just kicked our butts, that's what happened."
Penn State's loyal fans celebrated in the stands, waving white pom-poms. Happy Valley hasn't celebrated a conference title in eight seasons, when Rene Portland coached Penn State.
"We are ... Penn State," exclaimed the fans with 1 minute left and the Lady Lions leading by 18. The pep band then broke out into an impromptu rendition of the alma mater while Penn State brought the ball up one last time.
Off-court issues forced Portland out in 2007. Coquese Washington took over, needing five seasons to get the program back atop the Big Ten.
Her star backcourt of Alex Bentley and Lucas, who combine to average nearly 25 points a game, often draw much of the attention.
But it was Greene and Nickson who led the first-half charge against Ohio State.
Greene had a double-double in the first half alone with 16 points and 10 boards. She showed a lethal combination of muscle and athleticism after grabbing two rebounds on the offensive end with 3:50 left in the first half, deftly stepping around a defender on the baseline for a layup and a 37-26 lead.
They didn't stop hustling in the second half even with the game well in hand.
After missing a layup, Nickson tapped the loose ball to the backcourt, where Lucas picked it up and found Greene. She posted up for another easy bucket and a 74-54 lead with 6:19 left.
All five Penn State starters scored in double digits. Kalpana Beach added 12 for Ohio State.
"At some point in time you get embarrassed, at some point in time you get competitive," Foster said. "At some point in time you wake up to the challenge. And we did not."