STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Maggie Lucas and Dara Taylor each scored 22 points to send Penn State into the Sweet 16 with a 83-61 win over Florida on Tuesday night.
The third-seeded Lady Lions (24-7) will play at No. 2 Stanford (30-3) on Sunday.
Lucas, the two-time Big Ten player of the year, surpassed the 2,500 career-point milestone and led the Lady Lions to the NCAA tournament regional semifinal for the second time in three seasons.
Ariel Edwards added 16 points for Penn State. The Lady Lions are in the Sweet 16 for the 13th time.
Kayla Lewis led the 11th-seeeded Gators (20-13) with 20 points and nine rebounds. Jaterra Bonds scored 14.
Led by Lucas and Taylor, the Lady Lions controlled the game from the opening tip, and gave the home crowd one more big win to savor.
Edwards hit a jumper and Taylor drove for a layup, giving the Lady Lions a 15-point lead to start the second half and force Florida into a timeout.
Lucas soon hit her third 3 of the game and her fourth was a big one that put them up 56-36. Lucas, PSU’s emotional leader, pumped her first and directed an exuberant shout toward the fans.
She swished a free throw early in the second half for her 2,500th career point.
Lucas also picked up her fourth foul with 7:50 left in the game and the Lady Lions ahead by 16. She took a seat for about 3 minutes. She could have sat out the rest of the game. Coach Coquese Washington rested against the scorer’s table for a good look at the finishing touches of the rout.
Lucas got her due in her final home game, leaving for the final time to a standing ovation. She clapped her hands, waved her arms and pointed to the fans before hugging her teammates.
The Gators, who surprised No. 6 Dayton in the first round, could never dig out of a cold start, missing 10 of 13 shots to open the game. Much like how they put away Wichita State in the opener with a 17-0 run, the Lady Lions used an early 11-0 spurt to build a lead they would never surrender.
Needles hit a pair of 3s to straighten out the offense and Florida chipped the deficit to six. Gators coach Amanda Butler, though, let her emotions get the best of her in a big game, waving her arms in protest over a call and was whistled for a technical.
Lucas, a 95 percent free-throw shooters, hit both free throws to help send the Lady Lions into halftime with a 43-32 lead.