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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Maggie Lucas scored 14 of her 18 points in the second half and No. 8 Penn State saved its best for last in beating Ohio State 71-56 on Sunday, the Nittany Lions' 14th consecutive Big Ten win to set a school record.
The victory, in which they outscored the Buckeyes 43-19 after halftime, also gave them their fastest start since the 1993-94 season.
Alex Bentley scored 16 points and Nikki Greene had 11 points and 13 rebounds for Penn State (17-2, 7-0 Big Ten), which has won 11 in a row since a 67-52 loss at Connecticut on Dec. 6. It's the sixth-longest winning streak in program history.
Tayler Hill, the Big Ten's leading scorer, had 28 points for Ohio State (11-9, 1-6), which had won the last six meetings at home against Penn State dating to Feb. 27, 2005. Ameryst Alston added 12.
Ohio State guard Amber Stokes, co-captain and the reigning Big Ten defensive player of the year, had missed the last four games with a sprained left knee. She began working out with the team this past week and provided an emotional lift and four points.
The Nittany Lions improved to 33-21 all-time against Ohio State — even though they had won just two of the last 15 meetings coming in.
Coach Coquese Washington used extra time to make some points with her team at halftime after they fell behind by nine and were on the wrong side of a 10-0 run at the end of the break. The Nittany Lions didn't return to the court until there was 90 seconds left before the second-half tip.
Hill scored on Ohio State's first possession of the second half to stretch the lead to 11. But then things went south for the Buckeyes.
Penn State missed two field goal attempts, hit two of four free throws and got a 3-pointer from Lucas — all on one trip down the court, thanks to two rebounds off missed foul shots. When Bentley then stole the ball from Alston on the next play, the Nittany Lions had made up seven points in 33 seconds with the ball barely being advanced past midcourt.
With the Buckeyes hanging on to a 41-39 lead, the Nittany Lions then took the lead for good with a nine-point run.
Greene tied it before Lucas made it 43-41 on a lefty jumper in the lane. After Ohio State missed four attempts from the field, Ariel Edwards raced to the hoop for a layup in transition and was fouled, completing the three-point play. Greene then closed the uprising the way she started it with a bucket inside, off an assist from Lucas, for a 48-41 advantage.
Ohio State never got closer than five points again as the Nittany Lions slowly pulled away.
The Buckeyes more than held their own on the boards, leading 22-18 at the break, while outscoring the Nittany Lions 12-0 from behind the arc and 7-2 at the line.
Penn State came out as if to end the game early, roaring to a quick 7-0 lead on two Bentley baskets and a three-point play by Greene while Ohio State turned it over on its first two possessions.
The Buckeyes showed some spunk by countering with an 11-0 run that was fueled by Hill and Stokes, who received a warm reception when she first came in at the 17:58 mark. Hill had five points and Stokes made her first two field-goal attempts during the spurt.
The teams traded points for most of the rest of the half until the closing minutes.
The Nittany Lions took a 28-27 lead on Bentley's spin move followed by a 12-foot jumper. But then Hill hit a drive, Alston drove and hit the basket and was fouled for a three-point play and then scored after a nifty fake on a fastbreak layup to make it 34-28.
Hill then hit the shot of the half. With time dwindling on the shot clock, she pumped up an NBA-length 3 from the left elbow that caught only net with 25 seconds left to close the scoring at 37-28.
Hill almost hit her average in the first 20 minutes with 18 points on 6 of 12 shooting from the field including 4 of 7 3-pointers. Bentley had 10 for the Lions.
The Buckeyes fell to 0-4 against ranked teams, playing their best against the top teams on their schedule. They also lost to No. 7 Notre Dame (57-51), No. 22 North Carolina (57-54) and to No. 11 Purdue (82-75 in three overtimes).
It was their second home loss in the last three games after winning 31 in a row.
Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/rustymillerAP