NU falls to Penn State 63-59
By Maria Heim
The Penn State Nittany Lions (9-7) defeated the Northwestern Wildcats (11-5) in a 63-59 upset Thursday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Now, the Wildcats look to their future conference matchups, as they fall to 3-3 in Big Ten play.
Despite the loss, junior guard Laya Hartman said, “This game in particular really spoke to us as a team.”
The game was a true showdown between team leaders: senior guard Veronica Burton of Northwestern and junior guard MaKenna Marisa for the Nittany Lions. Toward the end of the first quarter the Wildcats struggled offensively, running all over the court and not firmly taking the ball into their possession. However, after the quarter ended, Northwestern finished with a 42% shooting average, a figure that the ‘Cats haven’t shown before.
Coach McKeown said finishing the first quarter with a clear lead was important in order to have some breathing room in the quarters to come. This is exactly what Northwestern did in this game, finishing the first quarter with a 18-14 lead. In past Big Ten matchups, Northwestern had not capitalized on this advantage, as demonstrated in both losses against Ohio State and Michigan State.
The ‘Cats stepped up their defense in the second quarter. Slowly but surely Northwestern creatively varied their offensive approach making it hard for Penn State to follow.
The Wildcats scored most of their points this quarter in the last four minutes. The first quarter boost wasn’t enough to keep them ahead, though. On a missed free throw, Courtney Shaw harnessed the offensive rebound to tie it up, 28-28.
The third quarter was filled with threes. The first points of the quarter were brought by none other than Hartman who finished with 10 points. Burton came in clutch, cashing in a steal for a three-pointer. Then, Lauryn Satterwhite got the three to fall with less than three minutes to go. Lastly, on the ‘Cats’ end, Hartman made a three-pointer, but Penn State’s fired back with the three-pointer in the last seconds of the quarter.
“Being out of the three-point line sucks the defense out of us,” Hartman said, referencing the ‘Cats’ positioning on the court on Thursday.
Northwestern finished with 10 steals and 17 fast-break points. Yet, this strength was not enough to come out on top against the Nittany Lions. The fourth quarter boiled the game down to depending on free throws, beginning with Burton missing two out of three shots and ending with Marisa making both free throws for Penn State.
“The biggest thing we’ll take out of this [game] is awareness,” Coach Joe McKeown said.
The Nittany Lions and Wildcats will meet on the court again at University Park on Feb. 6th. Nevertheless, Coach McKeown has his focus on traveling to College Park Sunday, as the Wildcats take on another Big Ten team, the Maryland Terrapins. Tune into WNUR 89.3 FM and Mixlr at 12 p.m. CT. Ally Navarrete and John Volk will have the call.