Penn State women rout Florida, will face Stanford next
UNIVERSITY PARK — Knowing it was her last time in uniform on the Bryce Jordan Center floor, Maggie Lucas bent down and kissed the lion logo at center court after the final buzzer sounded. It was a spontaneous gesture from Penn State's emotional senior guard.
The Nittany Lions' season, however, is not over.
Taking advantage of playing the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament at home, third-seeded Penn State defeated eleventh-seeded Florida, 83-61, on Tuesday and will face second-seeded Stanford (31-3) on Sunday the Cardinal's home floor at Maples Pavilion in the Sweet 16.
“I'm very excited. I've got a brother out there, so he's all pumped,” Lucas said. “Stanford's really good. But we're just going to enjoy this right now and start game-planning (Wednesday).”
Penn State has advanced to the regional semifinal 12 times and is 4-8 in those games. Its last appearance in the Sweet 16 was in 2012, when it lost to Connecticut, 77-59. Stanford defeated 10th-seeded Florida State, 63-44, on Sunday to advance to the Sweet 16 for the seventh year in a row.
Lucas had 22 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and senior Dara Taylor had a season-high 22 points along with three rebounds and four assists. Senior Ariel Edwards scored 18.
Penn State (24-7) went 23 of 27 from the free-throw line. The Lions shot 27 of 58 (46.6 percent) from the field and had a 38-25 rebound advantage.
“They were focused on executing the game plan,” Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. “It wasn't about history or the future. It was, ‘This is what we have to do to play against a really good Florida team.' We were able to have everything flow and click together.”
Kayla Lewis had 20 points and nine rebounds for Florida (20-13).
The Lions took a 43-32 halftime lead and wasted no time building on it.
With 16 minutes left to play, Lucas' 3-pointer made it 56-36.
Carlie Needles' fourth 3-pointer for Florida of the game made it 69-53 with just over eight minutes remaining. The Gators trimmed the deficit to 73-58 with 4:37 left but got no closer.
“They got a lot of momentum from our turnovers and a lot of points,” said Florida coach Amanda Butler, who was assessed a technical foul in the first half. “It wasn't necessarily the defense not doing great things or following the game plan. We were just giving them the ball back. You just can't do that with a great team.”