by Jonathan Skinner
The 3 and D: Three quick takeaways from today’s game, and one deciding factor.
1. Law and Order:
Vic Law made some critical plays down the stretch on offense and defense. His three-pointer, after three straight field goals by Dererk Pardon stretched the Wildcat lead with about four minutes left. Law finished with 18 points and 5 rebounds, several of which came in crucial junctures of the game.
2. Learning from Mistakes:
In their first meeting, the Nittany Lions dribble penetration and ability to get into the paint at-will decimated the Wildcats. Penn State forwards Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins combined for a total of 48 points in that game. Today the Wildcats showed they learned those mistakes. Shifting from man to zone, and several times a matchup-zone, Northwestern limited Penn State’s offensive production. That defensive effort was huge in the final six minutes as Northwestern took a lead they would not relinquish.
3. Allstate’s Alright:
Allstate Arena has served as the proverbial “home away from home” for Northwestern while Welsh-Ryan continues to be renovated. Much larger than Welsh-Ryan, Allstate has felt cavernous at times this season. However, there were times today you could barely hear the person standing beside you. It felt like the best of a college environment, and was perhaps the first real home court advantage of the season. “I feel like the energy was really good today,” coach Chris Collins said. “I felt the crowd.” It’s a welcome sight even if five of Northwestern’s next six home games are on the road.
The Deciding Factor:
Though Law was the high scorer for the Wildcats, it was the balanced offensive attack that kept the Wildcats in the game and gave them the lead down the stretch. Pardon, Scottie Lindsey and Bryant McIntosh also finished in double figures. That accompanied solid bench minutes from Jordan Ash and Anthony Gaines, both of whom gave the team energy to key Northwestern’s late 15-2 surge. Gavin Skelly also made two huge plays to ice the game: First, a tip out to Law for a three-pointer to push the Wildcat lead to five. Then, two minutes later, Skelly fought for a late rebound, drew a foul and knocked in two free throws to end any hopes of a Penn State comeback.