STATE COLLEGE - A parting gift from Penn State's four-woman senior class was a share of the school's third straight Big Ten championship.
The No. 8 Lady Lions' 77-62 victory over Michigan on Saturday enabled Penn State (22-6, 13-3) to celebrate in a post-game, on-court shower of blue-and-white confetti, and gave coach Coquese Washington a reason to smile.
"It's like Christmas morning for parents when kids open gifts and the wonderment they have and excitement they have," Washington said. "It warms my heart to see the players enjoy the experience because they work hard for these championships.
Maggie Lucas celebrates with a Big Ten trophy amidst confetti Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center.
"It's hard work winning championships. The moment the confetti comes down, I just like watching and enjoying that moment."
Ariel Edwards scored 21 points and her three senior teammates - Maggie Lucas, Talia East and Dara Taylor - followed with 17, 16 and 11 points, respectively. East also had a game-high seven rebounds.
Penn State can win the title outright on Sunday only if Nebraska loses to Purdue and Michigan State falls to Indiana.
The Lady Lion seniors have won 99 games for Penn State thus far in their careers, and this marks the fourth straight season the Lady Lions have won more than 20 games.
Edwards scored 15 of her 21 points in the second half.
"I was taking what they gave me," Edwards said. "My coaches always want me to be aggressive and that's what I try to do. My teammates got me the ball when I was open."
Taylor had seven assists for Penn State and Lucas four.
Michigan (17-12, 8-8) got 21 points from Shannon Smith and 14 from Madison Ristovski. Siera Thompson added 10 points.
The Wolverines entered the game with a 9-1 record (6-1 Big Ten) in road games, but Penn State pulled away in the second half.
The Lady Lions opened the half with a 19-7 scoring advantage, holding Michigan scoreless for a four-minute span and eventually opening a 63-41 lead.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Michigan's Ristovski and Smith and a baseline drive by Smith cut Penn State's lead to 63-49 but the Wolverines were unable to draw any closer.
Penn State shot just four times from 3-point range (3 for 4) because it was able to penetrate and attack the rim for layups and short jumpers.
"It was pretty even back and forth in the first half in the first eight or nine minutes and they went on a stretch where they were scoring and also shooting one-and-one at that point," Michigan coach Kim Barnes-Arico said.
"That hurt us. Talia East did a great job of scoring and getting the ball inside as well. When we were able to contain Lucas at times, they had other people step up."
That started with Lucas, who scored 13 points in the first half but turned her left ankle at the end of the half and added just four more.
"My ankle hurt pretty bad," Lucas said. "I tried to feed off the crowd. They really fire me up. I was feeling some pain, so I went to the crowd and got a little juice."
Penn State opened a 63-41 second-half lead that Michigan closed to 16 but failed to get any closer.
"I don't think too many people believed we could do this," Lucas said. "We worked so hard for this. I'm just so happy for the four of us. We have a bond over this championship and the previous ones. It's great to win another one."
For Taylor, who transferred from Maryland after her sophomore year, this title was her second straight.
"It doesn't get old," Taylor said. "You can win one, you can win 10. It feels great every time. It feels special because of how hard we worked for it."
Thompson 4-15 0-0 10, Smith 9-17 2-3 21, Elmblad 2-5 0-0 4, Goree 2-6 0-0 4, Driscoll 4-6 1-4 9, Ristovski 4-9 2-2 14, Rakers 0-2 0-0 0, Williams 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-60 5-9 62.
PENN ST. (22-6)
Taylor 4-7 2-2 11, East 6-9 4-4 16, Edwards 8-12 4-4 21, Lucas 5-10 6-7 17, Waldner 4-7 0-0 8, Agee 0-2 0-0 0, Sevillian 0-0 0-0 0, Harris 0-0 0-0 0, Mitchell 0-2 2-2 2, Whitted 1-3 0-0 2, DeGraaf 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-52 18-19 77.
Halftime-Penn St. 40-31. 3-Point Goals-Michigan 7-20 (Ristovski 4-6, Thompson 2-8, Smith 1-4, Rakers 0-2), Penn St. 3-4 (Taylor 1-1, Edwards 1-1, Lucas 1-2). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Michigan 30 (Driscoll, Goree 6), Penn St. 31 (East 7). Assists-Michigan 12 (Elmblad 4), Penn St. 16 (Taylor 7). Total Fouls-Michigan 15, Penn St. 13. A-6,494.