Lucas, No. 9 Penn St women top Northwestern 82-73Penn State's Ariel Edwards (23) reaches for possession of a loose ball around Northwestern's Lauren Douglas as Northwestern's head coach Joe McKeown looks on, during the first half of an NCAA basketball game in State College, Pa., Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- With Penn State's regular season winding down, coach Coquese Washington couldn't be happier that more of her players are stepping up.
Maggie Lucas consistently is Penn State's leading scorer and she filled that role again Thursday night, getting 26 points to lead No. 9 Penn State to an 82-73 victory over Northwestern.
But Tori Waldner registered a career-high 14 points, Ariel Edwards added 15, Dara Taylor 11 and Kaliyah Mitchell nine to spur Penn State to its fourth straight win and 15th victory in its last 17 games and keep the Lady Lions on top of the Big Ten standings.
''We're getting a lot more production from a lot of different people,'' Washington said. ''Tori Waldner and Kaliyah Mitchell stepped up and made some plays for us. We're starting to get more depth and contributions, which is helping us fight through the grind of conference play.''
Maggie Lyon had 17 points, including five 3-pointers, to pace Northwestern (14-12, 4-9), but it wasn't enough to keep the Wildcats from their fifth straight defeat.
Lauren Douglas added 16 points for Northwestern, while Nia Coffey and Alex Cohen scored 14 apiece.
''We had plenty of chances,'' Northwestern coach Jack McKeown said. ''We had more field goals (29-26) than Penn State and we did a pretty good job on the glass with them.
''But at times when we had to make a bucket, we couldn't do it.''
Northwestern drew to within 76-71 with just under a minute to play on two free throws by Douglas and a steal and subsequent basket by Christen Inman. Forced to foul despite a full-court press that was giving Penn State fits, the Wildcats could only watch as the Lady Lions padded their lead from the free throw line.
Northwestern shot just 10 free throws, while Penn State got to the line 29 times, converting 25 of them.
Lucas became Penn State's career leader in free throws. She continues to lead the NCAA in free throw shooting percentage and has missed just six shots all season (156 for 162).
Lucas was 7 for 16 from the field and 5 for 8 from 3-point range.
''I think I just caught a couple holes in their zone,'' Lucas said. ''Teammates put me in catch-and-shoot opportunities. A couple of times I faked to get some teammates some looks, too.''
Waldner, who scored 10 of her 14 points in the first half, also grabbed 14 rebounds for the Lady Lions, who outrebounded Northwestern 46-40.
''It's all about timing,'' Waldner said. ''I shoot when I'm relaxed and ready to go.''
Penn State was ready to go to start the second half, opening a 13-point lead and forcing Coffey out of the game with five fouls with 12:22 remaining. The Wildcats freshman forward had scored more than 20 points in her last two games, including 29 in a 90-84 loss at Iowa.
''Obviously, that changed things for them,'' Washington said. ''She's an unbelievable talent.
''Her transition game makes things happen for them. Having her go out was one less offensive threat we had to be aware of. That certainly, I think, changed the game.''
Edwards was a force in the second half for Penn State, scoring 11 of her 15 points. McKeown called her the most underrated player in the Big Ten.
''I guess I did what I was supposed to do the whole game,'' Edwards said. ''At halftime we talked about rebounding and how we hadn't been attacking offensive glass like we should be. After halftime I tried to do that.
''That put me in position for putbacks.''