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Penn State Hoops Grinds Out First Big Ten Win Of The Season Against Northwestern

Penn State men’s basketball (8-14, 1-10 Big Ten) defeated Northwestern (12-10, 3-8 Big Ten) 59-52 at the Welsh-Ryan Arena on Monday night. The Nittany Lions played their usual tough brand of defense and didn’t allow many easy buckets for Northwestern throughout the game.

Lamar Stevens led Penn State with 18 points while Rasir Bolton also had a strong night offensively, finishing with 14 points.

How It Happened

Northwestern guard Anthony Gaines got the Wildcats going early, converting on a layup through a foul and hitting the ensuing free throw. The Nittany Lions committed three turnovers early and were quickly down by a score of 10-2 at the first break.

Rasir Bolton helped Penn State cut into the Wildcats’ lead over the next few minutes, scoring five quick points on a three and a strong finish inside. The Nittany Lions trailed 12-10 with 11:36 remaining in the first half.

Penn State continued to heat up offensively, as Myreon Jones hit the visitors’ second three of the night while Mike Watkins followed it up with a pretty finish inside. These scores combined to give the Nittany Lions their first lead of the night, 19-18, with 7:42 remaining in the half.

Both teams exchanged leads over the last few minutes of the half, but Rasir Bolton hit two free throws to give Penn State a 32-30 lead heading into halftime. The freshman guard had a team-high 10 points in the first half.

With the game tied at 34 in the second half, Anthony Gaines and Lamar Stevens were both assessed technical fouls. This sequence was part of an amazing streak by Gaines as he picked up four fouls in just 55 seconds.

Both offenses were fairly stagnant in the second half’s opening minutes. Mike Watkins hit a layup for his eighth point of the night while Dererk Pardon continued to lead the Wildcats in scoring, but other than that neither team could get much consistent offensive production. Penn State led 41-37 with 11:48 remaining in the game.

It looked like Penn State was starting to pull away after several defensive stops and easy finishes inside from Lamar Stevens and John Harrar, eventually stretching their lead out to eight points. This lead quickly dwindled though, as threes from Miller Kopp and Vic Law, along with a poster dunk from Pardon brought the Wildcats back to within two. Penn State led 47-45 with 6:59 to play.

Penn State was sparked by several big time defensive plays, including a scrappy chase down steal from Wheeler and a huge block from Stevens. The Nittany Lions led by a score of 53-49 at the final media timeout.

The Nittany Lions strong defense didn’t let up in the final minute as Lamar Stevens forced a big Northwestern turnover. Despite the big play, Stevens proceeded to throw a pass off of Jamari Wheeler’s fingertips and gave the ball right back to Northwestern. The Wildcats converted on their ensuing possession with yet another finish inside from Pardon.

Despite this final gasp, the Wildcats failed to score again and sent Bolton and Stevens – two of Penn State’s best free throw shooters – to the line. With that, the Nittany Lions earned their first Big Ten win of the season.

Takeaways

  • Northwestern got into foul trouble early in the second half and it affected its play for the rest of the game. The Wildcats committed seven team fouls about five minutes into the second half, sending the Nittany Lions to the bonus 14:55 remaining in the game.
  • Lamar Stevens was a leader on both sides of the ball. He led the Nittany Lions with 18 points but also had two blocks and a steal, including two key forced turnovers down the stretch.
  • The Nittany Lions finally closed out a team down the stretch. It looked as if Penn State fans were about to see the same movie they had gotten so used to watching all season, but Pat Chambers’ squad was able to play strong defense and not make any unforced errors in the final minutes.

What’s Next

The Nittany Lions will travel to Columbus for a matchup with the Ohio State Buckeyes at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 7. The game will be televised on ESPN.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a sophomore majoring in journalism and is Onward State's assistant sports editor. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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