Penn State Men’s Basketball vs. Northwestern Game Preview
After a 22-day long hiatus from basketball, Penn State rang in the new year with a 61-58 over Indiana on Sunday to improve to 6-5 on the season and 1-2 in Big Ten play.
This past weekend was the first time that the Nittany Lions had played since Dec. 11 when they were bested by then-No. 19 Michigan State, 80-64. Since then contests against VCU, Quinnipiac and Delaware State were all canceled due to Covid issues within the programs.
The Blue and White have relied on its 3-point shooting throughout the year and it was on display in their win over the Hoosiers, shooting 50%, the team’s highest mark of the season. Senior Myles Dread paved the way going 4-5 from beyond the arc.
Another factor in the win was the strong performances off the bench. The aforementioned Dread had 12 points. While senior guard Sam Sessoms had 10 points, went 2-3 from three and had two steals.
Meanwhile, Jalen Pickett continues to be the best scorer for Penn State. He has found his groove and is averaging 16.8 points per game over the last four games. Pickett hit a pivotal step-back three with the shot clock expiring to give Penn State a 54-50 lead with 5:32 left to play.
Now first-year head coach Micah Shrewsberry and his team hit the road for a Wednesday night showdown with Northwestern in Evanston.
Penn State won last year’s meeting against Northwestern, 81-78 in Happy Valley, and has won four of the last five meetings.
A win over the Wildcats would give the Nittany Lions two straight wins and their first true road win of the season.
Now shifting the focus to the opposition in Northwestern, who currently sit at 8-3 on the season with losses to Providence, Wake Forest and Michigan State, all coming by six points or less.
Over the weekend, the Wildcats fell in a tightly contested affair to the No. 10 Spartans, 73-67. Going into the halftime break, Northwestern led by seven, but with 5:47 left and the game tied at 57, Michigan State ripped off an 8-0 run that proved to be the difference.
The second half of the game this weekend does not define the Wildcats, whose tenacity on defense has been a problem for many.
Overall they are holding opponents to 61.9 points per game, forcing 14.1 turnovers per game and nabbing 7.4 steals per game. In their matchup with Michigan State, Northwestern had 17 points off of turnovers.
Northwestern boasts four players that average double-digits, but the bulk of their offense comes through two of them: Pete Nance and Boo Buie.
Nance, a former four-star recruit, waited for his chance and emerged as a sophomore. Now, the senior forward leads the team with 16 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game. Standing at 6-foot-10 his ability to score inside and outside proves to be a handful for whoever is guarding him.
Meanwhile, Buie made an impact as soon as he stepped on campus, averaging 10.3 points per game as a freshman and 10.5 points per game last year. This year is no different, with the junior guard notching 14.6 points per contest.
However, something to note is that Buie has struggled shooting from the field recently, against Michigan State he went 3-13 from the field and 0-4 from deep.
In last year’s matchup, both Nance and Buie made life difficult for the Nittany Lions. Nance finished with 17 points and 7 boards, while Buie added 18 points in the loss.
Penn State has had Northwestern’s number in the past and is 34-20 all-time. However, with a ferocious defense and Penn State’s struggles with taking care of the ball, the Wildcats have the upper hand in what should be a low-scoring affair.
Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. on Big Ten Network from Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Illinois.
Prediction: Northwestern 66, Penn State 60
Matthew Scalzo is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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