UNIVERSITY PARK - Seconds after the final horn sounded on a dominating victory by the Penn State women's basketball team, confetti was fired off and streamers fell from the rafters of the Bryce Jordan Center.
For the first time in eight years, the Lady Lions celebrated a Big Ten championship.
Nikki Greene, one of three players to record a double-double, had 25 points and 15 rebounds to lead No. 11 Penn State to an 84-66 win over No. 8 Ohio State and a share of the conference title Monday night.
Sentinel photo by TIM?SHUMAKER
Penn State’s Mia Nickson (24) takes a shot over Ohio State’s Kalpana Beach (1) Monday evening in University Park. The Lady Lions won, clinching a share of the Big Ten title.
Mia Nickson added 18 points and 15 rebounds, and Maggie Lucas had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Lady Lions (22-5, 12-3 Big Ten), who won their sixth straight and for the 11th time in 12 games.
Penn State, which was voted the preseason favorite to win the Big Ten by both the coaches and the media, won at least a share of the conference title for the sixth time in the program's history. The championship is the first since the Kelly Mazzante-led Lady Lions won the second of back-to-back outright titles during the 2003-04 season.
Penn State can clinch the outright title with a victory in its regular-season finale against Minnesota on Sunday at home, or a loss by Ohio State (23-4, 10-4) in one of its two final regular-season games.
Following Monday night's victory, the Lady Lions were presented with the Big Ten championship trophy at mid-court while Queen's "We Are The Champions" played.
"There are no words," Nickson said. "It's amazing. We just worked so hard to get here. I couldn't see doing this with anyone else around me. My team is amazing. It was so glad I was able to come here and get the opportunity."
Coquese Washington, who won her first championship in her fifth season as Penn State's coach, said she was happy for her players.
"All these kids came here on the strength of the promise that we'd be in this position," she said. "They had nothing to gone on. I was a first-time head coach. All these kids came from all over the country. We said, 'Hey, come to central Pennsylvania, and let's win a title.' For them to have that faith, and come here and have that experience, it means a lot."
Against the Buckeyes, the Lady Lions never trailed, went ahead by double digits midway through the first half and were never seriously challenged in the final 20 minutes.
Penn State, which had lost 12 of 13 to Ohio State before Monday night, out-rebounded the Buckeyes 60-32, resulting in a 29-0 advantage in second-chance points.
"We didn't compete on the boards," Ohio State coach Jim Foster said. "We didn't compete at all. The just kicked our butts, that's what happened."
Leading the way for the Lady Lions underneath the basket was Greene, who set a career-high in points and tied her season high in rebounds.
"As you can see, when (Greene's) on the floor, and she's getting touches, and she's able to stay long enough to get into rhythm, she can be a dominate force," Washington said.
Penn State used a pair of runs in the first half to pull away from the Buckeyes.
With the game tied 9-9, a three-point play from Nickson started a 9-0 run for the Lady Lions. Another three-point play from Nickson just over a minute later gave Penn State a seven-point run lead and a jumper from Alex Bentley made it 18-9 with 13:20 remaining in the first half.
"The game got away from us with the first three or four uncontested rebounds, the first three or four uncontested baskets," Foster said. "At some point, we had to rise to the challenge."
Ohio State closed to within four points before Penn State put together another run.
Ahead 28-24, the Lady Lions held the Buckeyes to one basket over a five-minute span. A layup from Greene and a 3-pointer from Lucas sparked a 13-2 run that put the Penn State ahead 41-26 with 2:16 left in the first half. Greene scored eight points during the run, including the final six.
The Buckeyes got no closer than 13 points the rest of the way.