In many ways the 2019-2020 season has been a dream season for Penn State basketball fans. The Nittany Lions were ranked for the first time since 1996, and ranked in the top 10 for the first time since 1955. They reeled off eight consecutive wins in the heart of Big Ten play, and at one point were battling for a potential 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
However, this dream season is now watching the Nittany Lions limp to the finish line. Losers of four of their last five, the Nittany Lions will look to cap off the regular season with a victory in Evanston, Illinois, against the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday afternoon. Luckily for the Nittany Lions, the Wildcats should be a good team to try and get back on track against before starting the Big Ten Tournament.
Scouting the opposition
There is no way around it, Northwestern is bad. The Wildcats average just 64.7 points per game which is 372nd nationally. They rank 292nd nationally in field goal percentage (41.5%) and 307th nationally in three-point field goal percentage (30.6%). So, it goes without saying that this is not a team you have to worry about out scoring you.
Northwestern also struggle on the boards. They rank 326th nationally with a -4 rebound margin. They average just 33.6 rebounds per game, which puts them 276th nationally. This should set up nicely for Mike Watkins and John Harrar.
The Wildcats leading sorcerer is freshman Miller Kopp. The 6-foot-7 New Jersey native is averaging 13.0 points per game. Senior guard Pat Spencer is their second leading scorer, averaging 10.5 points per game while shooting 45% from the field.
All in all, the Wildcats should not pose much of a threat to the Nittany Lions on Saturday afternoon. Even with Penn State currently stuck in their worst rut of the season. In their first match up this season the Nittany Lions were 77-61 victors, there is no reason for this game to be anything other than another comfortable victory.
What to watch for
Team Attitude - It is fair to wonder where this team will be mentally. In past year’s, the Nittany Lions have been known for folding when facing adversity. Thus far, this season’s team has not. When they lost three in a row in January, they responded by winning eight in a row. This team now needs to bounce back again, and that starts by finishing the regular season by defeating an inferior Northwestern squad on Saturday.
Regular Season Swan Song For Two Penn State Greats - Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins are two of the best players in Penn State history. On Saturday afternoon, the senior duo will play their final regular season game in the blue and white. Following a disappointing senior night loss on Tuesday that saw the Nittany Lions blow a 19 point lead against Michigan State, you can guarantee both Mike and Lamar will be looking to go out with a bang on Saturday afternoon.
The Nittany Lions finish the regular season with a win to remain in the top 25, and gain some needed momentum before heading to Indy. Penn State 77, Northwestern 60