STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Lykendra Johnson had a double-double with 24 points and 12 rebounds and No. 11 Michigan State clamped down on No. 23 Penn State's offense in a 60-49 win Thursday night to take over first place in the Big Ten.
Taylor Alton added 12 points on four 3-pointers, and the Spartans (21-3, 9-2) frustrated the upstart Lady Lions with tough defense that forced the conference's top shooting team to rush or take bad shots.
Penn State finally settled down midway through the second half to narrow an 18-point lead to 51-45 with 4:23 left on two foul shots by Alex Bentley.
But Michigan State pulled away from there after the Lions fell back into their early mistakes, maligned by turnovers and sloppy ball-handling.
Mia Nickson had 22 points for Penn State (20-6, 9-3), which was held to 31 points below its Big Ten-best season average.
Johnson was a big reason why. The 6-foot-1 forward added eight steals and two blocks.
She also finished off a scoring spurt to open the second half with a 3-pointer and two foul shots to give Michigan State to stretch a nine-point halftime lead to 48-30 lead with 10:15 left.
With perennial power Ohio State struggling all year, Michigan State ascended to the top of the Big Ten with a statement win on the road.
Penn State hoped to avoid a repeat of last season, when the Lady Lions rose into the AP Top 25 for a week in late January before losing to start a 1-8 skid to close the regular season.
Thirteen first-half turnovers sapped the brief flashes of Penn State momentum. Michigan State's own poor shooting kept the game close — until an 8-0 in the final 2:30 of the half put the Spartans up 27-18 at the break. The Lady Lions went the final 6:20 of the half without a field goal.