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Northwestern 80, Penn State 69: On To The Post-Season

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The team will have a few days to regroup before the Big Ten Tournament.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern got out to a quick start, banking in a 3-point shot. That was how it went in the opening minutes, as the Lions struggled and found themselves down 10-0 at the start of the game. Trent Buttrick made his earliest appearance of the season at center, filling in for Mike Watkins, who was out for the game with a violation of team rules.

Buttrick tipped in Lamar Stevens’ third miss of the night to gain the first points for Penn State. The lead got to 14 when Stevens missed a pair of free throws. The next trip down the court Stevens got to the line again, hitting them both. While it was a struggle early-on, the team continued to play hard, as three different players went to the floor for one loose ball.

Myreon Jones hit a layup to cut the lead to 16-6 midway through the first half. The Lions were 2 for 14 from the field at the time but made four straight shots to get it going. Curtis Jones hit a 3-point shot to cut the lead to 6 with 7:26 on the clock and Northwestern called timeout, sensing momentum beginning to shift.

With a 3-point shot by Myles Dread the lead was cut to 4 and on the next trip down the court it was cut to 1 when he hit another. Northwestern answered with a deep ball of their own and led 30-26 with 3 minutes to go before halftime.

John Harrar made a pair of free throws then got an offensive rebound and put back to keep the Lions within striking range. With just over a minute before the half, Lamar Stevens hit a close shot to tie the game. Harrar hit a free throw to give Penn State its first lead of the game, 34-32. It was tied at 34 at the break.

The Wildcats came out hot again, making their first three deep balls and hanging in the game. Curtis Jones hit a 3-point shot from well behind the arc to tie the game at 44 early in the second half. It was probably one of the deeper step-back three’s you will see in the college game.

Jamari Wheeler hit a runner in the lane and the game was 53-52 with Northwestern leading and 11 minutes to play in the game. Boo Buie hit a foul line jumper and then a foul shot to stretch the lead to 4, then on the next trip down the court the Wildcats hit a 3-pointer and the lead was 7 with 8:38 to go. Wheeler got a clean steal and layup to end the run.

Lamar Stevens missed two shots on one possession and then picked up his third foul. Stevens was just 3 for 14 from the floor at that point in the game, struggling as he has for the past half-dozen games. Northwestern went on an 14-2 run during this time to stretch the lead to 13 points.

The lead got to 16 before John Harrar got two rebounds on one possession and then put it back in for his first double-double of his career. It was 75-63 with 3 minutes to play. Lamar Stevens hit a 3-point shot with 1:40 to cut the lead to 11 but it was a little too late for the Lions to make it all the way back.

Seth Lundy made three foul shots to cut the lead to 8 with 57 seconds to go. That was as close as it would get.

Random Thoughts

  • It was very, very ugly early for the Lions. Pat Chambers had to pull out all the stops to get his team in the mindset it needed once it was clear that they were not ready at the opening tip. He took his coat off in the first two minutes but it took over ten minutes for his team to respond to his tactics, slowly getting back into the game by the half.
  • Trent Buttrick played 5 critical minutes in the first half and had a rebound, block and basket while giving John Harrar some much-needed rest. With Mike Watkins out the Lions were very thin on the low post. Harrar answered the call, having a very productive game.
  • The Lions got just 12 points from Lamar Stevens, Myreon Jones and Mike Watkins through 35 minutes of the game and trailed by 16 points. It was tough for the team to stay within reach without the typical offensive output it gets from three of the best players.
  • It’s going to be a tough loss for the team to deal with emotionally and I know the fans will be the same. The good news is for only the second time since joining the Big Ten, the Lions have clinched a spot in the NCAA Tournament before heading to the Big Ten Tournament. The team will play on, let’s hope they find a way to play their best.

Up Next

The Lions will wait for their opponent in the Big Ten Tournament to be announced on Sunday. The team will have an extra day of rest by finishing the season on Saturday, while much of the league finishes out the schedule on Sunday. With a bye in the first round of the B1G Tournament coming, the Lions will play on Thursday.

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