Northwestern down and out in Big Ten

By Etheria Modacure

After two consecutive victories over the University of Iowa and Indiana University, Northwestern University (16-11, 6-10 Big Ten) failed to sustain any momentum, losing to Penn State University (15-12, 8-8 Big Ten), 66-52 on Feb. 24.

The Big Ten standings are in a log jam between fifth and ninth place as four teams are within two games of each other. The Penn State University Nittany Lions and Northwestern University Wildcats are two of those teams and they battled on Feb. 24.

The Nittany Lions proved to be the better team as they swept the season series between the two schools. The Wildcats began the game, trailing 18-2 in the first half and never led throughout the contest.

Penn State was able to limit Northwestern from making any effective shots from the perimeter. The Wildcats made 25 percent of their attempted 3-pointers, shooting 6-of-24 from the arc.

“Just a horrible start to the game,” said Northwestern Head Coach Bill Carmody. “In the second half, actually, it was OK for a little bit. Seems like we had some pretty good looks from our good shooters and we just didn’t get them to the point where we could get them over the hump.”

After trailing 18-2 in the first half, the Wildcats went on a 10-0 run to pull within six points of the Nittany Lions, 18-12. This was fueled by Northwestern’s guards Michael “Juice” Thompson and John Shurna, who each shot 3-pointers.

The Wildcats trailed 22-19 with 6:09 remaining in the first half but were unable to get a sustainable lead on Penn State before halftime.

This was the second loss to the NIttany Lions in two weeks for the Wildcats, which gave them 10 conference losses.

Penn State has been somewhat stellar in conference play, notching eight victories and sitting in fifth place in the Big Ten.

The Wildcats were led by Thompson who scored 22 points and nearly brought Northwestern back in the second half. After trailing 26-23 at halftime, the Wildcats had multiple chances to take the lead in the second half, but failed to force many mistakes from Penn State.

Northwestern trailed 32-29 when Penn State went on a 16-9 run to widen the gap in the second half. The Nittany Lions used an 18-14 run to close out the game.

The Wildcats limited Penn State’s leading-scorer Talor Battle to 13 points, but were unable to stop forward Jeff Brooks from scoring 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting and a 100 percent 3-point shooting effort.

“In that second half, that stretch, first five minutes or so, it was pretty even,” Carmody said. “Then we couldn’t put the ball in the basket.”

Northwestern shot 39 percent from the field in the game. They shot 32 percent in the first and went scoreless for nearly eight minutes in the beginning of the first half.

Shurna and guard Drew Crawford were the other players who scored in double figures for the Wildcats. Crawford had 11 points and Shurna had 10.

Thompson said the game was reminiscent of their last defeat to Penn State on Feb. 13, when they didn’t start the game with any passion.

“Just like when we went down to their place, we didn’t come prepared to play,” Thompson said. “We got off to a bad start.”