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Penn State's Alex Bentley, center, looks for a way around Minnesota's Shayne Mullaney, left, and Katie Loberg during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in State College, Pa., Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013. Penn State won 64-59.

Ralph Wilson, Associated Press - Ap

NO. 8 PENN STATE 64, GOPHERS WOMEN 59

Up next: 8 p.m. Monday vs. Illinois • Williams Arena • TV: Big Ten Network (88.5-FM)

U women's basketball nearly upsets Penn St.

  • Article by: GENARO C. ARMAS
  • Associated Press
  • January 25, 2013 - 8:14 AM

STATE COLLEGE, PA. - Maggie Lucas scored 26 points and Nikki Greene made three key second-half baskets and had 13 rebounds to help No. 8 Penn State defeat the Gophers 64-59 on Thursday night in Big Ten women's basketball.

Alex Bentley had 12 points as the Lady Lions (16-2, 6-0 Big Ten) won their 10th consecutive game despite their shooting struggles.

The Gophers (13-7, 2-4) had a chance to take the lead twice late in the game with the ball in the hands of Rachel Banham, their best player. But the sophomore point guard was called for traveling and committed an offensive foul on back-to-back possessions, with the Gophers trailing by one point each time.

Banham, who had 19 points, then missed a potential tying three-pointer with 13 seconds left. Lucas made two free throws with 2.9 seconds to give Penn State a five-point lead.

"We really rely on our defense," Lucas said. "We thought if we could get a few stops and execute offensively, we'd be in good shape. I thought we handled ourselves pretty well in the end."

"Critical plays and critical calls at the end, that was the only difference," Gophers coach Pam Borton said. "I thought we had good intensity. I thought for the most part, we locked into our game plan today."

Junior forward Micaella Riche had 12 points for the Gophers, who nearly won in one of the toughest venues in the Big Ten. Penn State hasn't lost at the Jordan Center in more than a year and is off to its best start since 1999-2000.

The Gophers kept Penn State off-guard defensively by attacking the basket and making tough shots in the lane. Banham and reserve Leah Cotton, who had seven points, both had strong drives to the hoop.

Lucas was often Penn State's only offensive threat for long spurts. Bentley struggled with her midrange jumper, while Greene and the Lady Lions' other inside players struggled to make shots whether open or with hands in their faces.

That changed midway through the second half, when Greene made a layup to tie the score at 47 before converting a missed foul shot for a three-point lead. Then Bentley made a jumper for a 52-47 lead with 5:28 left.

Greene finished with nine points on 3-for-11 shooting -- all three baskets came in the final eight minutes.

"I just think we needed to take our time more," Bentley said. "We started executing down the stretch, and that's how we won the game."

The Gophers never took the lead again, but Riche's layup with 50 seconds left got the Gophers within 60-59.

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