Men’s Basketball: Northwestern loses seventh straight in late collapse to Penn State


Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer

Sophomore guard Chase Audige defends an opponent in Northwestern’s home loss to Iowa. The Cats dropped their seventh straight contest on Saturday night.

John Riker, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

Northwestern ended Saturday night’s contest against Penn State with sterling numbers on the stat sheet: 49 percent from the field, hit on 11 three-point attempts and forced 16 Nittany Lion turnovers.

But the end result mattered the most— seven straight losses for the Wildcats.

Up against a Penn State (5-6, 2-5 Big Ten), who have played four games in the past seven days, the Cats (6-8, 3-7 Big Ten) played well offensively but could not finish off the Nittany Lions. A game that featured a season-high 18 lead changes culminated in disaster, as NU surrendered a four-point lead in the final minutes and missed the game-tying three-pointer in a 81-78 loss.

“It’s not a mental thing,” coach Chris Collins said. “It’s an execution thing. Our guys are playing really hard.”

NU struggled to get on the scoreboard early—the Cats started 0-4 from the field with three turnovers before their first score, a dunk by junior forward Pete Nance. But after the early drought, the Cats found their shot. NU hit three shots from beyond the arc over a two minute stretch to take the lead from their hosts.

The Nittany Lions and Cats matched each other’s moves in the first half, evidenced by 11 lead changes in the first 13 minutes. Both teams also shared struggles protecting the ball; Penn State finished the half with 12 turnovers, while NU coughed it up nine times.

The Nittany Lions pulled ahead with a seven-point blitz to break the deadlock, then saw their run matched in just five minutes towards the end of the first half by a 10-2 NU streak highlighted by a pair of threes from sophomore guard Boo Buie. Two quick Penn State buckets in the final 40 seconds of the half gave the hosts a 38-33 lead going into halftime.

“The end of the first half was critical to me,” Collins said. “We worked really hard to get the game back to tie, and the five-point (Penn State) burst there.”

The Cats erased the deficit in the opening minutes of the second half, alternating threes and dunks in a 10-0 run that gave NU a one-point lead. That burst proved to be the spark the Cats needed to get going. Penn State extended its lead to as many as six points near the end of the second half, but could not stifle the NU offense and prevent a comeback.

After Buie’s standout first half, the Cats’ frontcourt took over. A 7-7 shooting performance from the field between Nance and sophomore center Ryan Young to start the second half flipped momentum to NU’s favor. With four minutes left in regulation, the Cats held a 73-72 lead.

“We wanted to go inside tonight,” Collins said. “We did a good job of that. Those guys got a lot of touches and were either able to get a good shot or find their teammates on a number of possessions tonight.”

Instead of solidifying its lead, the NU offense went silent. Penn State’s defense suffocated the Cats’ attack, keeping NU off the scoreboard for four minutes. The Nittany Lions took advantage on the offensive end and took a six-point lead on a three-pointer by Jamari Wheeler with 1:10 left.

Nance ended the drought to cut Penn State’s lead to one possession with 36 seconds. In the Cats’ next possession, junior forward Miller Kopp corralled an offensive rebound and connected on two free throws to cut the lead to one. The Cats couldn’t finish the job, as sophomore guard Chase Audige’s last-gasp attempt, an off-balance three-pointer, missed the basket.

The quiet final four minutes of regulation overshadowed a strong offensive showing for the Cats. NU’s defense, which has lost each of its six contests in which it surrendered 80 or more points, did not hold up its end. The Nittany Lions had 26 free throw attempts to the Cats’ 12 and converted 14 NU turnovers into 20 points.

“It wasn’t the offense,” Collins said. “78 points, shooting almost 50 percent in the game, you should be able to win. We did not get the stops we needed.”

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