Rude Awakening In Lions’ Lair (Men’s Basketball)

Ben Larrison

By Ben LarrisonThe Daily Northwestern

Coming off its best non-conference season in the Bill Carmody era, Northwestern received a rude welcome to Big Ten play Wednesday night in State College, Penn.

The Wildcats stumbled early and trailed by as many as 34 as they went on to lose 83-57 at Penn State.

From the start NU (10-4, 0-1 Big Ten) struggled on both sides of the ball. After 3-pointers from sophomore Sterling Williams and senior Tim Doyle tied the game up at nine, the Cats were outscored 27-15 for the remainder of the first half, shooting just 36 percent from the field.

The Nittany Lions (10-4, 1-0) out-rebounded NU 16-8 in the half while dominating NU 16-0 on points in the paint. The Cats didn’t make a two-point field goal in the game’s first 13 minutes, finally breaking through on a Jason Okrzesik basket with 6:20 remaining.

“Right from the get-go, we just didn’t seem sharp,” Carmody said. “We had a real hard time stopping them, and then we weren’t scoring and it just put more pressure on us, and we just didn’t produce.”

The Penn State dominance continued as the second half began, opening the half with an eight-minute, 21-5 run. NU scored its first field goal of the period with just 11:15 remaining, trailing 57-29.

Danny Morrissey, who entered the game averaging just 10.7 points, led the Nittany Lions with 24 points and six rebounds in 25 minutes, including going 6 for 9 from behind the arc.

Four Penn State players scored in double-figures, including 15 points from Geary Claxton and 11 from both Jamelle Cornley and David Jackson.

“We got off to a really poor start,” Williams said. “Our defense was bad all around, and we weren’t able to come back from that.”

For the second-straight game Craig Moore was the top scorer for NU, with all 18 of his points coming on 3-pointers. The sophomore scored 12-straight points for the Cats midway through the second half, including two shots from well behind the arc. Freshman Jeremy Nash added a career-high 10 points for NU.

The Cats relied heavily on 3-pointers as they failed to find open looks on the inside, being outscored by nearly 30 points in the paint. NU would score 11 of its 57 points in the final three minutes of the game.

Though they struggled offensively, it was the Cats’ defense that ultimately cost them the game. The defeat, NU’s fourth-straight to the Nittany Lions, marked the first time the Cats gave up 80 points since an 84-48 loss to Illinois on February 23, 2005.

“We have to be more aggressive on defense and make them turn the ball over and make them make shots, but they shot very well wherever they were on the court,” Moore said. “It was just one of those nights.”

While Carmody said Penn State was struggling against the 1-3-1 defense, the Cats usually enter the zone after scoring, while playing a 2-3 matchup defense after misses. The seventh-year coach said the Nittany Lions had more success against the 2-3, and because of NU’s offensive struggles, they were facing the look for much of the night.

“They were getting too many open shots,” Carmody said. “And when your offense isn’t going so well it affects your defense, because you’re not feeling too good about yourself. It’s that human element you can’t forget.”

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