Northwestern (9-17, 2-10) travels to Penn State (14-10, 5-8) on Wednesday for a 6 p.m. CT tipoff at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, PA. Will they be able to break the hearts of the Lady Lions on Valentine’s Day? Here are three things you need to know ahead of the Big Ten thriller.
1. Joe McKeown has never beaten Penn State
If earning another Big Ten win weren’t already motivation enough for the Wildcats, they could take this game as an opportunity to get their head coach off the schneid. McKeown is a combined 0-21 against Penn State between his time in Evanston and when he used to coach at George Washington University. Tonight is a big chance for a young, hungry ‘Cats team to get that first win for coach Joe with Penn State coming off an underwhelming 101-68 defeat to Minnesota on Sunday.
2. Northwestern is a much better rebounding team than Penn State
Pallas Kunayi-Akpanah & Co. should have a field day on the glass against the Lady Lions on Wednesday night. PSU comes into the game dead last in the Big Ten in rebounding margin at -2.6, while Northwestern sits at a healthy +2.4. Even though Northwestern occasionally struggles on the glass itself (last in the Big Ten in offensive rebounds per game), the forwards should have a good day cleaning up shots from a Lady Lions team that is second to last in the Big Ten in FG%. Given the +5 rebounding difference in the ‘Cats favor and Penn State’s low shooting percentage, if PKA can get to 10 points, it’s a pretty safe bet to say she’ll record her 15th double-double of the season.
3. Playing Penn State at home is like playing UConn
Penn State may be a mediocre 5-8 in conference play, but they are a powerhouse at home. Since the Bryce Jordan Center opened 22 seasons ago, PSU is 254-76 in the 15,000-seater arena, good for a .769 winning percentage and including a 10-2 mark this season. We all know Connecticut’s program is the gold standard for women’s collegiate basketball; well, the Huskies all-time winning percentage is .787. So, in other words, playing the Lady Lions at home is comparable to trying to go out and beat UConn on any given night. The odds are stacked against NU, but a victory on Wednesday would surely sweeten their trip back to Evanston.