Updated at: 03/09/2013 8:09 PM
By JAY COHEN
(AP) HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. - Jasmine Thomas scored 14 of her 19 points in the second half and Michigan State used its stout defense to upset No. 8 Penn State 54-46 in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.
Becca Mills added 16 points for the Spartans (24-7), who held Penn State to 22 percent shooting and enjoyed a 52-38 rebounding edge.
Penn State (25-5) won the Big Ten regular-season title and lost in the tournament semifinals for the second straight season. The Lady Lions fell 68-66 against eventual champion Purdue last year.
Penn State star Maggie Lucas, the conference player of the year, had 23 points and nine rebounds, but she was the only player on her team to score in double figures.
Michigan State will meet third-seeded Purdue in the title game Sunday. The Spartans split their two regular-season games against the Boilermakers, losing 67-62 in overtime on Jan. 27 and winning 68-61 at Purdue on Feb. 28.
The Boilermakers advanced with a 77-64 victory over No. 21 Nebraska in the first semifinal.
Penn State led 21-17 early in the second half before the Spartans responded with a 15-3 run. Mills made a 3-pointer before Courtney Schiffauer converted a layup to give Michigan State its first lead of the game. Mills tacked on two more jumpers and Thomas’ basket made it 32-24 with 10:54 remaining.
The Lady Lions then turned to Lucas, who made consecutive 3-pointers to trim Michigan State’s lead to one. Penn State had a couple of chances to move in front but Alex Bentley missed a jumper and Mia Nickson was off on a layup attempt.
That provided an opening for the Spartans, who put the game away with a 10-0 burst. Thomas’ layup made it 44-33 with 4:08 left, leading to a celebration on Michigan State’s sideline and a timeout by Penn State.
Bentley was 3 for 15 from the field, and Nickson went 1 for 10.
Penn State got off to a fast start then struggled to score in an ugly first half that featured more turnovers (14) than field goals (11).
Tori Waldner converted a layup with 12:41 to go to give the Lady Lions a 16-5 lead _ but that was their last basket of the period.
Penn State staggered into the break with a 19-17 lead despite shooting 20 percent (6 for 30) and losing 28-21 in the rebounding battle. That’s because the Spartans were even worse, shooting 18.5 percent (5 for 27) and committing nine turnovers.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)