Penn State downs Northwestern in second straight home loss

By Logan Schiciano

The new year has not been kind to Northwestern men’s basketball as it suffered another crushing defeat Wednesday night, falling to Penn State 74-70 at Welsh-Ryan. 

The Wildcats led for more than 33 minutes in the contest, but Penn State closed on a 26-13 run, nailing several clutch buckets down the stretch. 

Northwestern jumped out to an early 9-2 advantage and would maintain a lead for the better part of the first period. Seven first-half threes and energy from their stars catalyzed the ‘Cats strong start. Boo Buie racked up 10 points before the half, and senior Pete Nance added eight. 

Coming out of the locker room up five, the ‘Cats pushed the margin to 55-45 midway through the second half. But then Northwestern’s offense went flat and scored just two points over the next five minutes. While Northwestern’s defensive intensity persisted, the Nittany Lions converted multiple times with the shot clock winding down, including an improbable fadeaway off one leg by senior Jalen Pickett, making it a one-possession game. 

Northwestern head coach Chris Collins said that allowing Penn State to claw back during this stretch cost the ‘Cats in the end. 

“I thought that’s where we had some loose possessions. I thought we had a couple bad shots, a couple bad turnovers,” Collins said. “Give them some credit for stepping up and making some big shots.” 

After the Nittany Lions drew even at 59 apiece, Nance drilled a mid-range jumper to move the ‘Cats back in front. But on the other end, another one of those big shots came from Penn State forward Seth Lundy, who hit a deep three-pointer from the top of the key as Northwestern’s Ty Berry fouled him. Lundy would sink the free throw to put Penn State up two. 

Nance responded with a sweet score in the paint before he denied John Harrar a dunk on defense. However, Penn State would get another chance to go ahead moments later, and it converted. Pushing the ball ahead after a Northwestern miss, Lundy was pure on a stepback three with 37 seconds left to give his team the lead for good. 

Lundy carried Penn State with 23 points on 8-13 shooting, and Pickett contributed 18 points and six rebounds. 

For Northwestern, Buie finished with 22 points and a season-high eight assists, while Nance and Robbie Berran both reached double figures. 

The loss is Northwestern’s fourth of the year, and all have been decided by six or fewer points. It’s also the team’s second straight home loss in Big Ten play, albeit without students in attendance. Collins said his team needs to find a way to move on. 

“We gotta keep fighting,” he said. “The guys are being tested with this, but I don’t think we’re gonna cancel the season three games into the league. It’s a 20 game schedule, and we got to be better.”

Berran was also looking to turn the page postgame.

“In the locker room right now, it hurts. We have a group that really cares,” he said. “If you use tonight as a stepping point, I think it’s different from now on.” 

Now sitting eleventh in the Big Ten standings, the ‘Cats will look to snap their skid on Sunday when they head to Columbus for a matchup with No. 13 Ohio State.