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Penn State 71, Northwestern 62: Nittany Lion Seniors Show Out in Evanston

Penn State used its defense to come out of Evanston with a victory, forcing Northwestern to a season-low 12% from beyond the arc.

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Bad news for Penn State was met with good news for Northwestern. The Wildcats would get their Alex Olah back for this game, while the Lions had to continue playing without Josh Reaves. This forced Pat Chambers to start both Jordan Dickerson and Julian Moore. As it turns out, that strategy wouldn't be too detrimental in Penn State's quest to get a coveted road win.

The game started not much differently than it did at Purdue, with Brandon Taylor opening up the scoring with an early three. Unlike that game, though, Penn State was able to control the tempo early and defend without fouling, frustrating Northwestern and forcing them to take bad shots. While foul trouble wasn't much of a concern for the team as a whole, Payton Banks found himself having to sit with two offensive fouls early in the first half.

Olah started 0-3 in his return to the court, and all three shots were contested. Penn State's continued relentlessness on defense allowed the them to open up a double-digit lead with less than five minutes to play in the first half, taking a 7-point halftime lead.

That 28% shooting first half for Northwestern would not get much better, and Penn State picked up right where they left off in the second half with a 3-pointer from Banks. Northwestern's cold shooting allowed Penn State to get another double-digit lead, and outside of a late Northwestern run to cut the lead down to 7, Penn State wouldn't look back.

Four Factors Analysis

Team Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 66 1.08 53.4% 24.1% 19.7% 75%
Northwestern - 0.94 41% 25.5% 6.1% 22.4%

Penn State's defense was a force to be reckoned with tonight, allowing them to get their shots while forcing Northwestern to settle. If not for the many turnovers with some offensive fouls and bad passes, these numbers would look even more lopsided in Penn State's favor. They kept a pace Pat Chambers was comfortable with, and it helped them avoid having the game get away from them when Northwestern made their run.

Players of the Game:
Donovon Jack - 14 points, 9 rebounds.
Brandon Taylor - 19 points, 7 rebunds, 3 assists.

For the second straight game, Donovon Jack and Brandon Taylor have combined to carry the load for Penn State. Jack in particular has started to show the maturity we expected from him, allowing the offense to run through Taylor. Given Garner's early struggles, it was nice to see someone pick up the slack to help Taylor bring this win home.

Random Observations

  • Hitting the 3s – For the first time in forever, Penn State was the team shooting lights out from three early, while the other team couldn't buy a basket. Brandon Taylor hit four threes, and went 3 for 3 in the first half. Even Devin Foster got in on the action, hitting a three in his second straight game.
  • Sharing is caring – Penn State had 14 assists on the night. They've had double-digit assists in both of their Big Ten wins so far, so keep it going.
  • Offensive fouls for everyone! - Not so much a complaint as much as an observation, but Penn State was called for four offensive fouls on the night. That's a lot of offensive fouls.
  • The seniors balled out - Jack had himself quite the game, Foster made solid contributions, and even Dickerson got in on the fun. You couldn't have asked for more out of the non-Taylor seniors.

Looking Ahead

Penn State returns home to face a Wisconsin team that's a shell of what they were last season, but is still competitive enough to give the Lions fits if they don't prepare well. You can catch that game on Tursday at 8 PM on BTN.