Penn State vs. Northwestern Preview
ComRadio's David Arroyo, Tom Shively, Joe Murhpy and Jon Gross preview this Saturday's matchup between the Nittany Lions and the Northwestern Wildcats.
With Big Ten play in full effect, the Penn State Nittany Lions (10-8, 1-4 B1G) will continue their road trip on Friday with a stop in Evanston, Illinois with the hopes of coming away with their second conference victory of the year against the Northwestern Wildcats (15-3, 3-2 B1G). Pat Chambers and company are 1-4 in their last five games. Their most recent loss came at the hands of the No. 24 Purdue Boilermakers as Penn State fell victim to a strong Purdue defense.
While Penn State has found some success shooting the ball this season, they have had some serious trouble spreading it around. The Nittany Lions as a team average 9.3 assists per game, which ranks 348th in the nation. While defense has been better than expected, Brandon Taylor has been the only real consistent weapon for an offense that is averaging just 67.4 points per game.
Even though Taylor, the senior forward, is averaging just under 16 points a game (a team high), Penn State needs to find a sense of consistency against another strong Big Ten defense. Since conference play began, the Nittany Lions have lost to Michigan, Michigan State, Maryland and Purdue. Three of these matchups were on the road. Northwestern is no exception to any of these other foes in terms of tough defense. The Wildcats have allowed just 64.1 points a game in 18 games so far this season.
Two of the three losses so far for Northwestern this season have been against top 10 teams. Sophomore guard Bryant McIntosh has led the charge so far, averaging 16.1 points per game and 7.1 assists per game. The Wildcats play with an edge and boast talented players like center Alex Olah and guard Tre Demps. Even though Northwestern has a .370 3-point percentage so far this year, Penn State has defended poorly beyond the arc. Expect the Wildcats to take some early looks from 3-point land to start out with a sizeable lead.
In the Lions last visit to Evanston, the team lost to Northwestern 60-39 and had a field goal percentage of 27.3. Geno Thorpe was the team’s leading scorer of the game and D.J. Newbill was still running the show. In order to make sure history does not repeat itself, Penn State will need to have the supporting cast make a strong effort on the offensive side of the ball. With a defense as fierce as Northwestern’s, the Nittany Lions will need to spread the ball around and hit open shots. If the team cannot find success outside of Taylor, Shep Garner, and Peyton Banks, the Blue and White will have trouble keeping up with Northwestern as the game progresses.
Prediction: Northwestern 71, Penn State 62
Mike D’Avella is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.