Dara Taylor had a layup with 1:26 left and No. 9 Penn State converted a late turnover into another key bucket to beat Northwestern 73-69 on Thursday night.
After Taylor skipped around a defender for the bucket and a 66-65 lead, Penn State (11-2, 1-0 Big Ten) double-teamed the Wildcats' Kelly Roser at midcourt. She lost the ball and Ariel Edwards hit a layup on the ensuing possession for a 68-65 lead with 52 seconds left.
Penn State held on from there, despite getting outrebounded 50-36 by the Wildcats (8-6, 0-1).
Northwestern led 60-54 with 4:47 left after Alex Cohen's improbable 3 off the backboard with 1 second left on the shot clock. Roser finished with 16 points.
The Wildcats played the final six minutes without two of their top players after Danielle Diamant and Kendall Hackney fouled out.
Maggie Lucas led the Lady Lions with 24 points, while Mia Nickson had a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Taylor finished with nine points, while Edwards had six points and four rebounds off the bench.
The Lady Lions looked sluggish after a 10-day layoff during the holidays, shooting just 20 of 67 (29 percent).
Northwestern controlled the boards, too, with 6-foot-2 forward Kendall Hackney posting a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds in the first half alone. Hackney was held scoreless and grabbed one more rebound the rest of the way before fouling out.
With 6-foot-4 center Nikki Greene on the bench barely 3 minutes into the game with two early fouls, Penn State never led in the first half. Every Lady Lions surge was met by a Wildcats spurt or defensive stand, and even 13 first-half turnovers couldn't hold back Northwestern early.
But the mistakes hurt the Wildcats late. They committed 28 turnovers, 15 in the second half, while Penn State had 19 steals — led by Taylor's seven.