Game Grades: Men’s Basketball vs. Northwestern
No. 13 Penn State (20-5, 10-4) won its eighth straight game, defeating the Northwestern Wildcats (6-18, 1-13) 77-61 in front of over 14,000 fans at the Bryce Jordan Center on Saturday afternoon. The win extends Penn State’s longest winning streak ever in Big Ten Conference play to eight. Let’s give out some grades for each unit from Saturday’s win.
There have been some games in this winning streak in which the Nittany Lions offense has looked elite. Although Penn State still made its fair share of shots, Saturday was not one of those elite offensive days. The Nittany Lions did drain 11 shots from beyond the arc, but it took them 31 attempts to do so. There were also times, especially in the second half, where the offense looked completely stagnant allowing Northwestern to go on runs in small spurts.
There were still many positives, though. Lamar Stevens continued his dominant stretch with 23 points. Myles Dread and Jamari Wheeler combined for seven 3-pointers, and Wheeler especially is really starting to find his offensive footing. Penn State also controlled the boards. The Nittany Lions outrebounded the Wildcats 42-30 and 13-5 on the offensive glass.
The defense also had a fair share of negatives, as Northwestern shot 46% as a team, and a big reason for that was a handful of defensive lapses by Penn State. The Nittany Lions looked very confused early on the defensive end, which made head coach Pat Chambers call a quick timeout. The defense got better as a whole after that point, but some of those same defensive lapses continued in the second half, allowing the Tigers to reduce the deficit to single digits at one point.
Penn State’s perimeter defense in this game was spectacular, though. Northwestern only shot 14% from 3-point range, and the Nittany Lions forced 11 turnovers. Wheeler continues to harass opposing guards, and the length of Izaiah Brockington continues to affect other teams as well. This Penn State team is so athletic that even on days where its defense has some holes, it can still look dominant.
Penn State is in the middle of a historic run. Before this season, the Nittany Lions had never won five straight Big Ten games, let alone eight straight. They’ve looked so dominant during this winning streak that some points today looked like a bit of a letdown. They got off to a bit of a slow start, but the Nittany Lions eventually raced out to a big lead against an inferior opponent.
Penn State has had second-half slumps in each of the last three games, allowing the opposition to have a little glimmer of hope each time, but in the end, the Nittany Lions did win all three games. As long as they continue to close out opponents, it’s not that big a deal. They’re not going to play perfect every game, and a game in which not every shot is falling is perhaps just what Penn State needed. It will help this team going forward as it looks to make a deep run in March.
Kevin McConlogue is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.