Northwestern continues to get creative about ways it can give away the hope for its first ever NCAA Tournament berth. As if losing to Iowa at Carver Hawkeye Arena wasn't bad enough, the Wildcats tried a new trick on Wednesday, coming out completely flat against a team that hadn't won a game against a Big Ten opponent all season.
For some reason Penn State always plays Northwestern tough, and even though the Nittany Lions and Wildcats hadn't played a cats clash in almost 14 months, it didn't matter at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Wednesday when Penn State captured an 81-70 victory.
The Wildcats simply gave the game away as they allowed Penn State (9-16, 1-12) to get to the basket early and often. The Nittany Lions scored 32 points in the paint, had 21 assists and shot 56.3 percent from the field for the game. Even though Penn State star Taylor Battle scored just 10 points, David Jackson (left) and Chris Babb each scored 20 to lead the way for Penn State.
"It was a great team effort tonight by everybody that played in the game," said Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis. "I thought we created some match-up problems in the 1-3-1. ... We got into a rhythm."
Northwestern (17-9, 6-8) didn't get any stops all game. Even with 14 turnovers, Penn State scored 81 points
in 67 possessions, a blistering 1.20 points per possession. That rate
would make any advanced statistician proud.
"We were never able to get any stops throughout the evening," said Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody. "Whatever we did they seemed to have an answer for it. I think
with the 1-3-1 we didn't put enough pressure on the ball probably."
Carmody said that at halftime the Wildcats tried to change the 1-3-1 to
increase the pressure on the ball, but they weren't able to make an
Of course, Carmody didn't help matters for the Wildcats. While Northwestern
struggled to stop anyone, he struggled to find the pieces that could
make a difference on the court. Freshman forward Drew Crawford looked a
step slow on offense and defense for most of the game, but he still
played 33 minutes as Carmody was reluctant to go deep into his bench of
give fellow freshman Alex Marcotullio extended playing time.
Fans streamed for the exits with 1:15 remaining and the Wildcats down
71-65 knowing that this season wasn't going to be any different than
any of the others in Northwestern's notorious history. The only way the
Wildcats are going to the NCAA Tournament is by winning the Big Ten
Tournament in Indianapolis during the second week in March.
One bright spot in Northwestern's loss was Juice Thompson. The junior
guard scored his 1,000th career point with a basket midway through the
second half. He finished with 17 points and was one of four Wildcats in
Still, Northwestern compounded their defensive mistakes with smaller -
but just as important ones - on the offensive end. Luka Mirkovic missed
all six of his free throws, the Wildcats turned the ball over nine
times and they shot 10 of 29 from beyond the three-point line.
Thanks to all those mistakes Penn State is now 1-12 in the Big Ten.
They are winless no more. But the infamy of Northwestern remains. As
one Northwestern alum tweeted after the game. It's time to check
Nitology.com. (Where by the way Northwestern was a tenuous 8 seed even
before tonight's loss.)
"We played the way you have to play to beat a good team on the road," said Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis.
By the end of the game the stands at Welsh-Ryan Arena, like the
Northwestern bandwagon, were nearly empty. This season will end just
like all the rest, without an NCAA Tournament berth. Maybe the Wildcats
can get a home game in the NIT. But would anyone come watch? Sure
that's better than anyone thought they'd be when the season started,
but it's so much further from where they could've been.