Game Grades: Penn State vs. Northwestern
Penn State (15-15, 6-11 Big Ten) hosted the Northwestern Wildcats (19-11, 7-10 Big Ten) on Thursday. On senior night in the Bryce Jordan Center, the Nittany Lions got off to a sluggish start from the opening tip. Taking advantage of poor shooting from Penn State, Northwestern found their offensive rhythm through senior guard Tre Demps, who tallied up 19 points on 8-11 shooting in the first half alone. The Wildcats controlled the entirety of the game, despite a furious comeback from the Lions, led by senior Brandon Taylor. In the end, Northwestern came out on top, 71-61.
Back Court: B-
The backcourt and the rest of the offensive catalysts struggled to find nylon in the first half, shooting 25 percent worse than the Wildcats despite attempting five more shots. But the real issue came on defense, especially at the start of the game. Northwestern’s Demps found little resistance in the paint and sunk three treys in the first half. The Lions’ perimeter defense also struggled, allowing Northwestern to shoot 47 percent from deep. Penn State’s Shep Garner got things trending in the right direction in the second half, tallying up most of his seven assists and 13 points after the break. The Nittany Lion half-court offense looked much more complete in the second half of the game, when they were able to get to and capitalize at the foul line with consistency.
The frontcourt of the Nittany Lions played hard, as seen mainly on the glass, where center Jordan Dickerson and company outrebounded the Wildcats both offensively and defensively. With that being said, the scoring opportunities were there for Penn State’s scorers, as demonstrated by Taylor, who finished with 17 points on 50 percent shooting (7-14, 3-6 3PT). However, just as many opportunities were available for the Northwestern offense, which was able to score much more efficiently than the Blue and White.
Penn State head coach Pat Chambers found some much-needed energy from a trio of young bench players led by freshman guard Josh Reaves with 11 points and five assists. Knocking down four three-pointers, the bench helped lead a late Penn State comeback, which, at one point, cut the Northwestern lead down to four points. It could even be argued that the bench played better than the starters, scoring only 11 less points in 32 less minutes of game time. With the Big Ten Tournament looming, a nice outing from the bench is a welcomed sight.
Despite an inspired comeback in the second half, this was a game that Chambers won’t be particularly proud of, mostly for the poor defensive play in the first half. Strangely enough, Penn State outrebounded and out-assisted the Wildcats, but a few extra turnovers and personal fouls were enough to make the difference in the end. With such a sour start to the game, it was good to see that the Lions regrouped after halftime, but they just didn’t have enough time to climb out of the hole they dug themselves in the first half.