Penn State entered Wednesday night coming off one of the most gut wrenching, heartbreaking losses in recent memory. Hell, when you weigh all the factors, it’s not a stretch to call it one of the worst losses in program history.
Tip your cap to Micah Shrewsberry and his squad. They easily could have folded, especially after being in an early hole, but this did not happen. They fought and battled on their way to a 68-65 overtime victory, improving to 18-12 on the season.
To the credit of the Nittany Lions they could have been in deep trouble at halftime. Trailing 20-10, they put together a 14-8 run to finish the first half. This pulled Penn State to just a 28-24 deficit at intermission.
Much of the first half saw sloppy play from the Nittany Lions. The team had 10 first half turnovers while Northwestern turned it over just twice. They also shot less than 30% from three-point range in the first half while Northwestern shot 43%.
Coming out the locker room the Nittany Lions were off to a strong start. Penn State went on a 13-5 run to start the second half, giving them their biggest lead of the night at that point by a score of 37-33.
After this run the second half turned into a back-and-forth exchange of body blows. Northwestern was able to jump out to a six point lead, but with 2:22 left in the game Cam Wynter sunk a three-point shot to tie the game at 58.
After an Andrew Funk three gave the Nittany Lions the lead, Evan Mahaffey would be called for goal tending with 1:18 left in the game. This call led to Ty Berry’s shot counting to tie the game at 61.
Penn State would fail to get a shot off on their next possession, turning the ball back over to the Wildcats with less than a minute left to play. To Penn State’s credit they put together a great defensive possession that gave them a chance to win it at the buzzer. Andrew Funk got a wide open look and unleashed a three-point shot that was seemingly halfway down the basket before it bounced out, sending the game to overtime.
The dogfight continued into overtime. As the two sides traded shots and leads, the game had the feeling it would come down to the final possession. In the waning seconds Evan Mahaffey pulled in a massive offensive rebound on a great effort play, then fed Wynter who sunk the game-winning three.
The bounce back victory gives the Nittany Lions a fourth Quad 1 victory on the season. There is work to be done, but a NCAA Tournament berth is very doable. Pick up another Quad 1 win on Sunday at home against Maryland, win a game in the Big Ten Tournament, and this team will likely go dancing.
Player of the Game
Cam Wynter - 24 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists
There is no way around it, without Wynter Penn State would not have won this game. Game winning shot aside, he was the best Nittany Lion on the court all night long. Wynter has been playing tremendous basketball in recent weeks and that continued on Wednesday night.
Evan Mahaffey, flies under the radar, has an important night - Evan Mahaffey only attempted one field goal. The lone point he scored came on a free throw. However, he played a massive role in Penn State’s victory. Without his hustle, effort rebound at the end of overtime Penn State doesn’t win this game. He had a huge rebound late in the first half as well. Mahaffey also helped to stymy Boo Buie defensively all night.
Jalen Pickett needs to re-emerge - A big reason Penn State blew a 19 point second half lead against Rutgers on Sunday was due to superstar Jalen Pickett failing to score in the second half. After struggling against Northwestern, Pickett now has just 7 points in his last three halves of basketball. Penn State will need more from Pickett in a vital game against Maryland on Sunday.
Sunday afternoon Penn State will host Maryland at the Bryce Jordan Center for their regular season finale. Tipoff between the Nittany Lions and Terrapins is scheduled for 12:00 PM ET, and the game can be seen on Big Ten Network.