STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Ameryst Alston capped her big performance with a couple of free throws. The rest of her 26 points came from behind the 3-point line.
Alston made eight 3-pointers to lead No. 7 Ohio State over Penn State 77-63 on Sunday. But the Buckeyes ninth straight win didn't come easy.
The Buckeyes (21-4, 13-1 Big Ten) committed 13 turnovers and made just 13 of 36 field goal attempts in the first half. They didn't score their first points until nearly 4 minutes into the game - a 3-pointer from Alston that seemed to wake up her teammates.
Alston finished with four 3-pointers in the first half that helped Ohio State to a 37-30 halftime lead, one Penn State would quickly erase.
''We missed a lot of shots,'' Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. ''We didn't make a lot of shots early in the game that we normally make and we let that affect other areas of our play, especially on the defensive end.''
Defensive lapses continued into the third quarter for Ohio State. But so did Alston's 3-point prowess.
She hit two more to start the second half, the only offense for Ohio State during a 14-6 Penn State run that saw the Lady Lions (9-16, 4-10) close the gap to 45-44.
''When you're not on at first, you can't get discouraged,'' Alston said. ''You just have to keep shooting because those are shots we usually make. You just keep shooting and eventually they'll fall.''
But fresh off an upset of No. 17 Michigan State on Thursday, the Lady Lions continued to give the Buckeyes fits down the stretch.
Lindsey Spann led Penn State with 21 points while Brianna Banks added 14. Teniya Page gave Penn State its first lead since the first quarter with a midrange shot midway through the third.
''I thought we came out with a lot of focus on executing the game plan,'' Penn State coach Coquese Washington said.
That lead wouldn't last long.
Kelsey Mitchell made one of her three 3-pointers moments later to give Ohio State a 48-46 lead. Penn State tied the game twice more and stayed within a possession for the first 4 minutes of the fourth quarter. But the Buckeyes took control over the final 5:35 with a 17-6 run. Alston, who shot 53 percent from 3-point range, hit her final 3-pointer with 2:53 left and made two free throws to close out the game.
Mitchell finished with 17 points and Alexa Hart chipped in 12 points and 14 rebounds for the Buckeyes who remain atop the Big Ten standings with four games left.
Hart was a force down low as she grabbed rebound after rebound and swatted a handful of loose balls to teammates who turned them into second-chance points.
Hart's ability to stay on the court was critical, McGuff said. The Ohio State forward wasn't called for her first foul until there was just 1:20 left to play in the third quarter and she played 35 minutes.
''She was outstanding,'' McGuff said. ''We needed those second-chance points with the way that we were shooting.''
Spann was Penn State's pacesetter for much of the game. She scored 15 of her 21 points in the first half but wasn't ready to declare the scrappy performance a moral win.
''It doesn't matter,'' Spann said. ''We lost. I don't like to lose. I think we just had a few possessions where we turned the ball over a couple of times. We had some defensive lapses as well.''
Washington was more encouraged by her team's effort down the stretch, especially with its win over Michigan State still fresh in her mind, however.
''I thought a good week for us in terms of how we played, how we competed against two of the best teams in the country,'' Washington said. ''I think certainly we're moving in the right direction.''
Ohio State: Although they were held below their scoring average of 86.2 points per game, the Buckeyes entered the game on pace to break the school's season scoring record set by the program's lone Final Four team in 1992-93. That squad finished with 83.2 points per game.
Penn State: The Lady Lions still own the all-time series edge 36-25 but have lost their last four games to the Buckeyes.
Ohio State hosts Nebraska on Thursday.
Penn State visits Northwestern on Wednesday.