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Northwestern 70, Penn State 61: From Hot to Cold

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After shooting the lights out in the first half, the Lions did the exact opposite in the second half, ruining their hopes of sweeping Northwestern.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Northwestern Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Lions started off hot, nailing seven of their first ten shots from the floor (including three three-pointers from Shep Garner, who would finish the half 5-for-6 from downtown) and jumped out to an early nine-point advantage over Northwestern. The Wildcats however, clawed their way back in, taking advantage of Mike Watkins’ early foul trouble (Watkins went to the bench with two fouls midway through the half) to assert themselves in the paint, eventually claiming the lead before Shep hit another trey right before halftime to give PSU a 35-33 lead going into the locker room.

The second half saw Penn State maintain a steady four-to-six point lead all the way until the 10:37 mark. From there on out, the Lions failed to make another shot from the field for the remainder of the game (PSU’s final six points were all scored from the free throw line). The Wildcats would take advantage by reclaiming the lead for good with five minutes to play at 61-59 (part of an 11-0 run that the Wildcats would use to take a 66-59 lead before PSU scored again) and once again, the Lions found themselves losing another winnable contest.

PPP and Four Factors

Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 56 1.09 59.3% 37.3% 25.0% 34.9%
Northwestern 1.25 46.9% 39.0% 12.5% 35.4%

PSU still finished shooting over 50% from the floor, but as we know by now, that number would’ve been way higher if they had actually been able to hit a shot within the game’s final ten minutes. Meanwhile, Northwestern’s defense clamped up to force 14 PSU turnovers, while the Wildcats only managed half as many, which made a huge difference towards the end.

Player Of The Game - Shep Garner (22 points, 6-for-11 3-pointers)

Shep was on fire in the first half and was a key part of Penn State being able to maintain their lead despite struggling defensively. Unfortunately, he too was bitten by the cold shooting bug that plagued the team in the second half, only hitting one three-pointer.

Random Observations

  • Aside from Nazeer Bostick’s eight points, this team once again had absolutely zero scoring support off the bench. When the starters aren’t scoring below their season averages (Mike Watkins and Tony Carr only managed eight points each), the bench players become that much more critical and thus far this season, only Nazeer (and to a lesser extent, Jamari Wheeler before Reaves was suspended) have been the only players off the bench who can reliably pitch in some points. Not exactly a winning formula.
  • Finishing the game without a field goal in the final 10:37 is quite impressively, actually. If you’re going to suck, at least make sure to do it in epic fashion.
  • On a positive note: PSU was at one point in this game shooting a #nice 69 percent from the floor.

Up Next

The Lions (13-8, 3-5) hit the road again this upcoming Thursday to become the latest sacrificial lamb against surprisingly stellar Ohio State team. Tipoff will be at 8:00 PM ET on BTN.