Second time’s the charm. After getting embarrassed by the Nittany Lions two weeks ago in Happy Valley, Northwestern Men’s Basketball (12-9, 3-5 B1G) rallied after being down for most of the game to defeat Penn State (13-8, 3-5 B1G) in Allstate Arena, 70-61.
“Seeing them again, I thought that was the most embarrassing thing, knowing we didn’t play to our capabilities at their place,” said Bryant McIntosh (10 pts, 4 rebounds, 4 assists).
Despite trailing for nearly the entire first half, Northwestern managed to find an offensive rhythm that they maintained for the rest of the game. They had a balanced scoring attack, with all but one starter scoring six or more points in the first half. The Wildcats also established dominance in the paint, securing 6 offensive rebounds in the half. Penn St., on the other hand, relied on the sharp shooting of senior Shep Garner, who scored 17 points in the half and shot 5-6 from behind the arc. Their need to rely on Garner stemmed from Chris Collins’ decision to change the ‘Cats’ defensive scheme from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone, which kept the Nittany Lions contained in the paint.
“We tried to stay active,” said Collins. “Especially in the second half, our zone was effective. The defense was able to keep their scorers in check.”
The play of the half came with just over two minutes left, when Skelly through a gem to Anthony Gaines (6 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists) who finished the alley-oop with style.
In the second half, Northwestern improved their shooting while containing Garner. On the offensive end, they kept racking up offensive rebounds, pulling down 10 more in the half, with multiple from Scottie Lindsey, Skelly and Gaines. However, they were even more impressive on the other end of the floor: the Wildcats held the Nittany Lions without a field goal for the final 10 minutes of the game.
The Nittany Lions were persistent, and still led Northwestern with six minutes to play. The Wildcats needed an extended run to put the game away, and they got one. Dererk Pardon (12 pts, 3 offensive rebounds, 3 assists) scored all his second-half points in a 90-second span, including two emphatic dunks, the second of which put Northwestern up for good. On the next possession, the ‘Cats secured three offensive rebounds before Skelly kicked it out to a wide open Vic Law for a three, making a reasonably-full Allstate Arena explode.
“It was pretty satisfying,” said Law of the sequence, “especially when I wasn’t in the play at all or doing any of the work and then benefitted from it.”
A jumper from McIntosh on the next possession essentially put the game away, sending a raucous crowd home happy. McIntosh and Law were visibly excited after the game, saying that their goals were still in front of them.
The Wildcats will look to build on their momentum in their next game at Minnesota (14-8, 3-6 B1G) on Tuesday.