COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- After watching Maryland stumble from the outset in a loss to Michigan State three days earlier, coach Brenda Frese emphatically stressed to her players the importance of getting off to a sharp start against Penn State.
The Terrapins complied, though the best part about their performance Sunday was the fashion in which they finished.
Taylor Mikesell scored 23 points, Kaila Charles added 19 and No. 9 Maryland used a late surge to beat the Lady Lions 79-67.
Up by 13 in the first quarter, the Terrapins (16-2, 5-2 Big Ten) trailed 48-44 in the third period before coming on strong.
"They asserted themselves in the fourth quarter," Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. "That's what makes them a really talented team."
Mikesell drilled a 3-pointer to make it 64-56 with 6:30 left, and successive baskets by Shakira Austin in the lane provided Maryland with a 12-point cushion with three minutes to go.
Maryland outscored Penn State 22-16 in the fourth quarter on the strength of 8-for-12 shooting.
Austin had 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Terrapins, who trailed Michigan State by 16 in the first quarter of a 77-60 loss on Thursday night.
In this one, Maryland bolted to a 21-8 lead.
"We talked a lot these last few days about our energy and playing hard from the tip," Frese said. "One of our goals was to start the game strong."
If the Terps could play an entire game like that, they would almost certainly stand atop the Big Ten.
"Our next step is being able to sustain that for 40 minutes," Frese said.
In the first meeting between the teams in December, the Terrapins outscored Penn State 21-4 in the fourth quarter to pull out a 77-61 victory.
Maryland found itself in a similar situation this time. Although the Terrapins led by 13 points early, they took a tenuous 57-51 advantage into the final 10 minutes.
The fourth quarter, however, was all Maryland.
"Once we focus and lock in, we can do really good things," Charles said.
The Lady Lions (9-9, 2-5) haven't defeated a Top 10 team since February 2012 and are 0-7 against Maryland since the Terrapins joined the Big Ten before the 2014-15 season.
Teniya Page scored 20 for Penn State, reaching double figures in a 35th consecutive game despite being confined to the bench at the outset for violating team rules.
Page entered with 3:33 left in the first quarter and had nine points by halftime. The senior guard needs 47 points to become the sixth player in the history of the program to reach 2,000.
The Lady Lions missed their first eight field-goal attempts and trailed by 13 before scoring 27 in the second quarter for a 35-35 halftime tie.
Penn State held a 48-44 lead in the third quarter until Maryland got five points from Brianna Fraser in a 13-3 spurt.
Judging by their performance in two losses to Maryland, it's evident what Penn State must do to improve.
"We've got to finish the games. We have to finish out the fourth quarter," Washington said. "We've got to find a way to execute better on both sides of the floor down the stretch."
Penn State: The Lady Lions can't seem to beat Maryland, and they're 0-3 on the road in the Big Ten. Give credit Washington, however, for rallying her team back into this one and starting without Page to show that all players must adhere to team policy.
Maryland: This makes two straight games in which the Terrapins were woefully inconsistent. They were fortunate to recover in time to win this one after losing at Michigan State, but a pair of bland outings in a four-day span could bounce Maryland from the Top 10 for the first time this season.
Penn State: At Wisconsin on Thursday night, a rematch of game earlier this month won by the Lady Lions 71-64.
Maryland: At Ohio State on Thursday night. The Terrapins beat the Buckeyes at home 75-69 on Jan. 5.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP—Top25