Men’s Basketball: Wildcats’ shooting comes back to bite them in loss against Penn State


Noah Fricks-Alofs/Daily Senior Staffer

Dererk Pardon looks to make a play. The senior center had another strong game against Penn State, but the Wildcats came up short.

Andrew Golden, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

With 4:52 remaining in the second half, A.J. Turner stole the ball off of a pass from Penn State guard Josh Reaves.

As Turner ran to score the fast-break bucket, the 6-foot-7 junior forward tried to hold off the defender from stealing the ball, but never fully controlled the ball and eventually fumbled it, allowing the Nittany Lions to get a steal and eventually score.

That play was a microcosm for the whole game — plenty of promising opportunities, but Northwestern continually let its chances slip through its fingers.

“We had a number of opportunities in transition, whether it was 2-on-1s, 3-on-2s (or) 4-on-3s, where we came up empty,” coach Chris Collins said. “We had some costly turnovers when we needed to get buckets.”

The Wildcats (12-10, 3-8 Big Ten) frequently cut into Penn State’s lead in the second half, but didn’t have enough momentum as the Nittany Lions (8-14, 1-10) defeated NU 59-52.

Headed into Monday’s game, the Cats had been struggling to score. In its previous two games against Wisconsin and Maryland, NU averaged 49 points per game and shot 30.3 percent from the field.

Looking to spark the offense, Collins inserted junior forward Aaron Falzon into the starting lineup instead of Turner. Falzon didn’t have any effect on the game, failing to score a single point.

Despite this, the Cats came out firing on all cylinders, making four of their first seven shots. Sophomore guard Anthony Gaines came out as the aggressor offensively, scoring five early points.

Once NU took a 10-2 lead, the Cats’ shooting woes that have plagued them the last two games continued. Penn State took a 19-18 lead with 7:52 remaining in the first half as NU went 4-for-13 from the field during the Nittany Lions’ 17-8 run.

The Cats trailed 32-30 at halftime, looking for answers in the second half — and they didn’t find any.

NU was even worse in the second half, shooting a mediocre 28.1 percent, including 3-for-13 from the behind the arc. Gaines, who was the Cats’ most assertive scorer in the first half, picked up four fouls, including a technical, in the first 3:03 of the second half and fouled out late in the game.

The only spark offensively was senior center Dererk Pardon, who scored 18 points in the game. After scoring just 5 points in the first half, Pardon kept NU afloat and went 6-of-8 in the second half.

“It’s up to me and the rest of the staff to continue to find ways to help these guys offensively,” Collins said. “We know we have our limitations. … With what you have, you have to use your strengths.”

The Cats brought the game within two points in the second half on multiple occasions, but ultimately couldn’t take the lead due to costly turnovers and inefficient offensive possessions. After a Miller Kopp 3-pointer made the score 47-45, NU finished the game 3-for-12 from the field and Penn State iced the game from the charity stripe, finishing 8-of-10.

For the fifth straight game, the Cats have held their opponents to 70 or fewer points. Despite their stellar defense, once again, it was the offense that lagged behind. With nine games remaining, NU needs to figure out its offensive strategy, but, for now, it is costing the Cats victories.

“With us, it’s just tough sledding offensively,” coach Chris Collins said. “Our defense is trying to give us a chance, we hold another opponent under 60 points in the league… our inability to put the ball in the basket is really hurting us right now.”

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