Penn State men’s basketball squeaks by Northwestern for second consecutive win

Sports

Penn State’s Jamari Wheeler (5) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb., Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (WTAJ) – The Penn State men’s basketball team came out on top Saturday night with an 81-78 victory over Northwestern in the Bryce Jordan Center.

Led by junior guard Izaiah Brockington with a game-high 21 points, and three other Nittany Lions (5-6, 2-5) in double figures, Penn State (5-6, 2-5) picked up its second-straight Big Ten Conference win.

Brockington finished his perfect night at the foul line with two free throws with seven seconds to play for an 81-78 Penn State lead. Northwestern’s 3-point attempt from the right wing at the buzzer was lon g.

“(I’m) really proud of our guys, I thought that was a fantastic program win – when I mean program win, I mean everybody — our training staff, strength and conditioning, this is the last game of the four games we’ve had (in a week). Everybody really committed to making sure we were ready to go…Our bench was fantastic…the preparation that went into this whole week, not just this last game. When they (Northwestern) came back, and they took the lead, we were struggling a little bit there defensively, we could have very easily folded, and we didn’t. I give that credit to the leadership of this team…What I saw tonight was a bunch of guys (who are) really connected and playing for each other.”

The Nittany Lions withstood a furious second-half shooting performance from Northwestern. The Wildcats shot 70 percent (14-20) from the field through the first 13:18 of the period, but Penn State’s defense anchored down and held the Wildcats to a 1-7 mark in the final 4:02.

This defensive effort allowed for the Nittany Lions to swing the momentum back in their favor. Down 73-69 with 4:24 to play, Penn State used a 10-0 run to snatch a 79-73 lead. Northwestern wouldn’t go quietly, thought, cutting the lead to one with 12 seconds left in the game. Brockington calmly stepped to the line and made his final two free throws to seal the win for the Nittany Lions.

Sophomore forward Seth Lundy had 16 points, and junior guards Myreon Jones and Sam Sessoms had 15 and 12, respectively. Senior forward collected a game-best 10 rebounds, his second-straight double-figure rebounding game and fourth in the last five games.

The game saw 18 lead changes and nine ties. Northwestern opened the second half with a miss, but strung together five-straight field goals, including two treys, to take a 45-44 lead by 16:49. Penn State made five of its next seven field goals to pull out to 57-51 at the midway point, its largest lead since the first half.

On a 7-0 run, the Wildcats took back the lead and building it to four with a 73-69 score with 4:24 to play. A Lundy triple brought Penn State within one, 73-72, and he followed with two free throws for a 74-73 lead.

Brockington’s layup and a trey by senior guard Jamari Wheeler put Penn State up by six, 79-73, but Pete Nance’s counter-three with 36 seconds to go kept Northwestern alive at 79-76. Miller Kopp had two free throws to bring the Wildcats within one 79-78, before Brockington added his two free throws for the final margin.

Kopp led Northwestern in scoring with 19 points on 5-11 shooting while Pete Nance had the Wildcats’ top rebound total with seven.

A slow start for both squads saw Penn State with a 4-0 lead nearly four minutes into the contest.

Following a pair of buckets Northwestern ahead, Sam Sessoms sparked the Nittany Lions off the bench with five quick points on back-to-back field goals. Over nearly five minutes, 12 of the game’s 18 lead changes took place as the two teams traded scores. Both teams had 7-0 runs, but during the final minute of the half, the Nittany Lions outscored the Wildcats 7-3, including five points by Jones on a triple and buzzer-beating runner, to grab a 38-33 lead going into the break.

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