What was billed as a winnable game for Penn State turned into a blowout as the Northwestern Wildcats (10-6, 1-2 Big Ten) blew past the hapless Nittany Lions for the 70-54 win. The game was not even as “close” as the final score indicated.
A solid 12-8 start for the Nittany Lions lasted just eight minutes into the first half, marking the point in the game when Penn State’s night completely collapsed. Northwestern’s Dave Sobolewski sank back-to-back buckets to tie the game at 12 and senior forward Jared Swopshire followed with a three to break open a 13-0 Wildcats run that Penn State never recovered from. Though a string of empty possessions by Penn State briefly ended when sophomore forward Jon Graham brought the score to within seven on a nice reverse layup, Northwestern quickly responded with a 10-0 run to dash any real hopes of a comeback.
At the end of the half, Penn State trailed 33-18. Freshman forward Brandon Taylor was in early foul trouble, and the backcourt of D.J. Newbill and junior Jermaine Marshall played particularly poorly, with the former scoreless in the last 12 minutes in the half and the latter shut out of the scoring column entirely on 0-3 shooting.
Newbill and Marshall finally broke out of their funk about four minutes into the second half. Newbill converted both free throw attempts on his first trip to the line and Marshall split two defenders on a spin move and scored on an impressive finger roll for his first points of the night. The revitalized play of both guards led to a comeback of sorts as junior forward Sasa Borovnjak sank one of two free throws to cut the lead to 14, but the Wildcats responded with an 11-2 run that sealed their victory, if the outcome of the game was ever in doubt.
Penn State coach Pat Chambers opened the postgame press conference with a rather negative statement regarding his team’s performance:
“We didn’t play with any energy or enthusiasm,” said Chambers. “This was embarrassing — we were not ready to play and it’s disappointing. And that goes on me. And I take full responsibility.”
Newbill and Marshall managed to finish the game with a combined 33 points but Chambers, despite his repeated insistence on taking responsibility for the game, seemed disappointed in the performance of his top two players as well as in the team in general.
“We’re not sharing the ball. We have two guys who think that they can do it all. They can’t. They need help,” said Chambers.
The loss drops Penn State to 8-7 (0-3 Big Ten). Whatever problems the team might have right now, they’ll have to resolve them quickly before they travel to West Lafayette to take on Purdue.
- Penn State started 0-9 from three. They finished the game 3-15 from long range, and shot an atrocious 31.6% from the field for the game.
- Sophomore guard Kevin Montminy played a career-high 12 minutes, helping spell Newbill and Colella, who were in foul trouble. He scored his second basket of the season on a putback off of an offensive board, drawing the foul and converting the and-one.
- Northwestern had four players score in double digits. The Wildcats’ Dave Sobolewski and Reggie Hearn combined for 32 points.