Lions Knock off Northwestern for Chambers’ First Big Ten Road Win
In Saturday’s loss to Minnesota, it took Penn State 11:18 of game action just to put points on the board. That drought preceded only 12 first half points scored and a 27 percent shooting performance for the game. Thursday night against Northwestern, it took just 51 seconds of play for Penn State to get on the board with a D.J. Newbill jumper and put Saturday’s scoring woes behind them.
Penn State (10-19, 2-15) used hot starts and defensive pressure at the beginning of both halves to quickly put points on the board, leading to a 66-59 victory over injury-plagued Northwestern (13-17, 4-13 Big Ten) at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The win marks the first Big Ten road win of the Pat Chambers era and the first conference road win for Penn State since a victory at Minnesota on March 6, 2011.
All of Penn State’s scoring came from its starting lineup and per usual, guards D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall led the way with 18 points each. Senior forward Sasa Borovnjak registered the first double-double of his career with a great 15-point, 10-rebound performance. Ross Travis added eight points and nine rebounds and Nick Colella scored seven points and dished out four assists.
Penn State jumped out to a quick 15-3 lead through six minutes, but the Wildcats would not shy from the double digit deficit on Senior Night in Evanston.
The Wildcats quickly closed the lead to 15-14 after buckets from Dave Sobolewski and a three from Alex Marcotulio. The teams traded the lead three teams before Penn State took a 34-30 half time lead.
The Nittany Lions started the second half with a ton of energy on both ends and built up their largest lead, 44-32, after Borovnjak and Newbill layups and 3-pointers from Marshall and Colella five minutes into the half. The Northwestern seniors would not go away, however. Reggie Hearn (11 points) was all over the floor and Alex Marcotulio (career-high 22 points) caught fire from deep, hitting five second half 3-pointers, the fifth of which put the Wildcats back ahead, 54-53, with 6:08 to go.
Penn State responded with quick buckets from Borovnjak and Newbill to regain the lead, 57-54. Additionally, hard work from Travis down low got the sophomore to the free throw line to increase the lead. Travis did all of his scoring from the line, knocking down 8-of-12 attempts, including 4-of-6 in the game’s final three minutes. Colella and Borovnjak also made clutch free throws down the stretch to seal the win for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State will close their 2012-13 regular season at home Sunday at noon against No. 22 Wisconsin. After once staring a potentially winless conference season in the face, the Lions will have a chance to close out the season winning three of four games against the scuffling Badgers. It’s clear that Penn State has made significant strides and it was encouraging to see the team respond positively to the disappointing Minnesota performance. Pat Chambers has said all along that the team’s goal is to be the best team they could be by season’s end, and a win over another ranked opponent like Wisconsin, while not very likely, would give the Nittany Lions good vibes going into the Big Ten tournament and beyond.