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Penn State Basketball: Northwestern Too Much As Nittany Lions Fall 87-77

by on December 27, 2016 6:30 PM

Penn State made a run in the second half but couldn't to make up for the near knockout blow in the first 10 minutes of the Nittany Lions' Big Ten opener on Tuesday, as Northwestern improved to 12-2 on the year following an 87-77 victory. Josh Reaves paced the Nittany Lions with a career high 22 points but it wasn't nearly enough to stop the hot shooting Wildcats, who are hoping for a program-first NCAA tournament berth.

How It Happened:

Both teams traded baskets in the early going, but Northwestern started out hot, making its first six shots form the field. Up 15-9, the Wildcats took an early lead and never looked back despite Penn State seemingly surviving the opening salvo. Northwestern's 13-9 lead would balloon to 25-9 before a Mike Watkins' free throw finally broke the ice cold streak. Lamar Stevens' layup with 11:29 to go in the half marked Penn State's first basket in more than six minutes of game time. Penn State kept things within reach, down just 15 with 1:18 to go in the half, but back-to-back threes in the final minute pushed it to a 51-32 halftime margin in the Wildcats' favor.

Penn State started the second half better, holding Northwestern to just four points for nearly seven minutes. The Nittany Lions pulled within 13 before a quick burst pushed it back out to a 68-47 Wildcat advantage with 9:40 to go. From there Penn State never really threatened Northwestern's lead.

It Was Over When:

With 13:48 to go Penn State managed to get within 13 points, but a Northwestern run over the next three minutes pushed it back out to a 21-point margin and the Nittany Lions never truly challenged again. Penn State would get within 10 points late in the game and even single digits but only when the game was all but over already. The early second half run gave Penn State a chance, but the Wildcats were just too good to let their lead totally evaporate.

Player Of The Game:

Josh Reaves' career-high 22 points make him Penn State's most consistent player on the night, but it was Scottie Lindsey's 31 points on 9-of-14 shooting for Northwestern that stole the show. Mike Watkins was his usual self with eight points, eight rebounds and three blocks but his contribution wasn't enough to swing the game. 

Stats Of The Game:

Shep Garner and Payton Banks made just three baskets all game as both of Penn State's key scorers struggled from the field. With just a single point between the two in the first half, it was Banks in the second trying to spark the Nittany Lions, who scored just nine fast break points. Penn State had 12 points off the bench while Northwestern got 24. The game mostly came down to a single stat: Northwestern shot 55.9 percent from the field in the first half en route to a 19 point lead.

Up Next: 

Penn State heads on the road to face Rutgers on Sunday. Tip-off is at 2:30 p.m. on ESPNU.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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