STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Jack McKeown watched his young Northwestern squad close in on a more experienced Penn State team Thursday night, and then he watched the game slip away.
It's something he's seen more than once this season.
Maggie Lucas led No. 9 Penn State (21-5, 12-2) to an 82-73 victory by scoring 26 points, frustrating the Wildcats with key 3-pointers, late free throws or timely steals as the Lady Lions stayed perched atop the Big Ten standings.
Despite having four players score in double figures, McKeown said his Wildcats were unable to hit clutch shots and Northwestern (14-12, 4-9) dropped its fifth straight game.
Maggie Lyon had 17 points, including five 3-pointers, to pace Northwestern. Lauren Douglas added 16 points and Nia Coffey and Alex Cohen scored 14 apiece.
"We had plenty of chances," 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 fell by two points to Penn State on Feb. 2 and has played other ranked teams tight.
Northwestern drew to within 76-71 Thursday night 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. The Wildcats also committed 18 turnovers to Penn State's 13.
Lucas was 7 for 16 from the field and 5 for 8 from 3-point range. She also became Penn State's career leader for free throws made with 517.
"You can't turn your head on Maggie; she'll make you pay," McKeown said. "I'm sure she's going to go down as one of the great players (for Penn State). It will be good when she graduates."
Also key for the Wildcats was Coffey fouling out with 12:22 to play. She didn't play against Penn State the first time, but has scored more than 20 points in each of her last two games.
"I was trying to get her (Coffey) out with four," McKeown said. "Until I look at the film I have no comment on that. She's a great player.
"When we get into the Big Ten tournament, we need to be on a little bit of a run and get her going. She a great player; it hurts."
Penn State coach Coquese Washington shared the same opinion of Coffey. "That was huge; that was big for us," Washington said. "She's a great player."
Northwestern's Lyon kept the Wildcats close with four of her five 3-pointers in the first half, but 11 turnovers aided a couple of Penn State early runs.
"When we had a chance to win at Northwestern against Penn State we didn't turn the ball over," McKeown said. "The first half tonight we didn't take care of the basketball and it came at the wrong time.
"We have a very young team and sometimes we get excited and don't take care of the basketball."
Tori Waldner had a career-high 14 points and Ariel Edwards added 15 for Penn State, which has won four straight games and 15 of its last 17.
"We felt like we were chasing her from behind the second half," McKeown said of Edwards. "I think she's probably the most underrated player in the Big Ten."