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Penn State Hoops Prevails Against Northwestern In 74-70 Nail-Biter

Penn State men’s basketball (7-5, 2-2 Big Ten) defeated Northwestern (8-4, 1-2 Big Ten) 74-70 in conference action on the road at Welsh-Ryan Arena Wednesday evening.

John Harrar dictated the offensive pace for the Nittany Lions early-and-often by scoring the Nittany Lions’ first seven points of the contest. The Penn State lead didn’t last for long, however, as Boo Buie exploded for 10 first-half points behind nearly 45% shooting from beyond the arc, giving the home squad a narrow 34-29 lead at the break.

Northwestern led for the majority of the second-half, but the combination of Jalen Pickett and Seth Lundy proved to be too potent for Chris Collins’ defense. The two stars led a timely 26-13 scoring run over the final 8:29 to stave off the tournament-minded Wildcats.

How It Happened

The Wildcats controlled the opening tipoff, but were unable to turn the opening sequence into instant offense. On the other end, Jalen Pickett delivered a pinpoint entry pass to John Harrar in the low post, who converted an easy jump hook for the first score of the contest.

After trailing 2-0, Northwestern embarked on a 9-0 run sparked by 3-for-3 shooting from beyond the arc. In an effort to stop the sequence, the Nittany Lions turned to Harrar’s paint presence, where he added five more points to keep the visitors within striking distance at an 11-7 disadvantage.

Following the game’s first timeout, Penn State delivered a 7-0 scoring stretch of its own, sparked by two three-pointers by Myles Dread and Jalen Picket. The conversions gave the Nittany Lions their first lead of the game, but Northwestern’s mid-range consistency continued to give Micah Shrewsberry’s group fits defensively.

Nearly halfway through the first half, Penn State displayed its prowess on the offensive glass by grabbing three boards on the same possession, leading to a Seth Lundy reverse lay-up. Shortly after, Lundy nailed a corner three-pointer to regain a 18-17 lead in favor of the visiting squad.

Both teams continued to trade baskets, as the lead continued to shift back and forth with each change in posession. Despite trailing by one, the Wildcats outscored Penn State 8-2 in a three-minute span to establish the first semblance of separation in the matchup. However, Pickett’s ability to create isolation offense helped the Nittany Lions fight back to a 25-24 deficit with five minutes remaining in the half.

Before heading into the locker room, Boo Buie, the brother of Penn State hoops legend Talor Battle, exploded for a series of clutch baskets, including a timely three-pointer to keep the Wildcats firmly in control. Jalen Pickett continued to pester Northwestern’s defense on the offense end, though, finishing the period with nine points despite trailing 34-29 at the break.

Northwestern began the second half right where it left off, as Buie buried an additional three-pointer to give the Wildcats their largest lead of the night a 37-31 mark. The Nittany Lions continued to fight back offensively with the services of Pickett and Lundy, who both notched timely conversions, cutting the deficit back to just two points.

Within the next two minutes, Northwestern quickly established its most productive span of the game with an 8-1 run, highlighted by a series of fast break opportunities off opportune bounces. Penn State was able to stop the run by forcing a turnover, leading to a fast break conversion of its own capped off by Greg Lee, cutting the mark to 45-39.

Lee’s conversion jumpstarted a short-lived run from the Nittany Lions, enforced by a smooth step-back jumper from Pickett, cutting the Northwestern lead to four. On the next sequence, Ty Berry halted all of Penn State’s momentum by draining a three-pointer, and the additional and-one opportunity, to bring the margin back to a seven-point Nittany Lion deficit.

Moments later, Buie accounted for four unanswered points in a span of 28 seconds to give Northwestern a commanding 53-43 lead with just over 10 minutes to play. Similarly to Northwestern’s initial game-altering run in the first half, the Nittany Lions continued to hang around by outscoring the Wildcats 8-2 over the ensuing two minutes, leaving Shrewsberry’s crew down only 57-53 in crunch time.

Out of the under-eight media timeout, Pickett’s offensive showcase continued by converting a fade away off the glass with two defenders in his face, cutting the margin to two. On the following possession, Penn State continued its trend of finding isolation success. Sessoms shook his defender with a quick hesitation move, resulting in an easy lay-in. The move capped off a 9-0 Nittany Lion run, and tied the game up at 57-a-piece.

With just over two minutes remaining, Pete Nance broke the stalemate for Northwestern with a routine jumper, which helped the Wildcats take a two-point lead. In shocking fashion, Lundy converted a four-point-play late in the shot clock on the other end, giving Penn State its first lead since midway through the first half.

The two-point Nittany Lion advantage quickly shifted back into an even, 63-63 knot with less than a minute to play. After a slew of clutch defensive possessions from Northwestern, the Wildcats couldn’t contain Lundy in the clutch. The senior fired an ill-advised three-pointer early in the shot clock with 34 seconds remaining, but sunk the deep ball with confidence to give Penn State a 66-63 lead.

Northwestern was able to convert a timely driving lay up late, but the late effort ultimately faltered when Myles Dread hit Lundy on a well-executed out of bounds set for another and-one opportunity. Ultimately, Penn State prevailed by upending the Wildcats 74-70.

Takeaways

  • The inside-out combination of Seth Lundy and John Harrar is a force to be reckoned with. The lengthy center began the matchup by scoring the squad’s first seven points to keep the Nittany Lions within close quarters to the Wildcats. In response to Harrar’s early tear, Northwestern head coach Chris Collins adjusted his defensive strategy by flooding the paint, leaving the perimeter open for Lundy’s services from downtown. The senior sharpshooter took advantage of the mismatch, exploding for 23 points on 5-for-9 shooting from deep, leading Penn State to triumph.
  • When all else fails on offense, Jalen Pickett thrives in one-on-one scenarios. The senior currently ranks second in the Big Ten in minutes-per-game, and for good reason. Pickett torched the Northwestern front court for 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting, highlighted by a plethora of circus drives and acrobatic finishes.
  • Despite putting together a two-game conference winning steak, Penn State must hold opposing stars in check better than it did against Northwestern. All-conference caliber guards in Boo Buie and Pete Nance posted 22 and 15 points respectively, and almost halted the comeback effort on their own merit. If the Nittany Lions are able to pull of the monumental upset against Purdue, stout defensive efforts will be required on Jaden Ivey and Zach Edey

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will return to Happy Valley for a matchup against No. 3 Purdue on Saturday, January 8. Tipoff from the Bryce Jordan Center is set for noon, and it will air live on Big Ten Network.

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a junior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania double majoring in journalism and business. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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