Game Grades: Northwestern
The Penn State Men’s Basketball team started off the Big Ten tournament on the right note.
With the Nittany Lions earning a bye in the Big Ten tournament they got to face off against No. 10 seeded Northwestern Wildcats. A strong night from Tony Carr propelled Penn State to a 65-57 over the Wildcats and third matchup against Ohio State Friday Night.
With Penn State being without Mike Watkins, Coach Chambers went to a lot of small-ball lineups with mixed results. Tony Carr was again the star for this team. Carr went for 25 points including 6-10 from three. He also added six rebounds and a team-high four assists.
Shep Garner and Josh Reaves were the other two players in double digits for the Nittany Lions as they added 12 and 15 points, respectively.
Penn State lived by the three-ball in this game as they attempted 29 for the game but were able to make six of them. Because of Penn State’s offensive struggles throughout the game, the three-ball was a way to keep the Nittany Lions ahead.
Penn State was very inconsistent throughout this game as they would make runs to get leads over Northwestern, but then go on a cold spell to bring the game back even. Luckily, the Nittany Lions won the final minutes of the game where they outscored the Wildcats 10-3 to win by eight.
The biggest disappointment in this game by far was the play of Lamar Stevens. Stevens struggled to find a rhythm throughout the game to the tune of only eight points and 2-12 from the field. Penn State is going to need Stevens’ best in order to beat the Buckeyes for a third time.
The Nittany Lion defense was swarming the whole night and held to the Wildcats to 57 points, well below their season average of 69.2 points per game. While Northwestern is no offensive powerhouse by any means, they were an NCAA tournament team last year and still have plenty of weapons.
Penn State held Northwestern to a bad 26.3% from the three-point line, when they shot the three at a 35.7% clip in the regular season. The Wildcats were also forced into nine turnovers as Reaves and Garner led the charge for the Nittany Lion defense without Watkins.
Northwestern’s stars were held in check this game as Scottie Lindsey only scored 12 points on 4-13 shooting, while team captain Bryant McIntosh scored just seven points and was 3-12 from the field.
The Wildcats’ lack of a dominant big man helped the Penn State defense withstand the loss of Mike Watkins for one night. But, Ohio State will be a much bigger challenge as forwards Keita Bates-Diop and Kaleb Wesson have been a big issue for many teams this season.
Coach Pat Chambers had his team ready to play this game even if it looked sluggish at times. This was a must-win game for Penn State if they still have any shot at making the NCAA tournament for the first time under Chambers and first since 2011.
Chambers will have to coach his best game of the season Thursday night at Madison Square Garden against the No. 2 team in the Big Ten. He will have to accomplish something that is rarely done in college basketball and that’s beat a team three times in one season.
There is a lot of speculation and talk around Happy Valley about Chambers job security, but a third win versus Ohio State would silence a lot of his critics.
Between now and 6:30 pm on Thursday, Chambers needs to get his team motivated to win a game that will not only put them in the Big Ten semifinals but give them a stronger case to the NCAA Selection Committee.
Camden Tofil is a freshman majoring in advertising. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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