Penn State's nightmare is over - or has at least woken up for now - as the Nittany Lions went to Evanston and gutted out a 59-52 victory to get off the mark in the Big Ten, ending a losing streak that had lasted over a month. Lamar Stevens led the charge with 18 points, seven rebound and six assists, and locked up Northwestern's Vic Law down the stretch to preserve Penn State's lead. Rasir Bolton added 14 points on 14 shots as PSU moved to 1-10 in conference play.
This was a knock down, drag out affair, with both teams shooting well under 40% from the field and combining for 36 fouls. It looked to be another typical loss in the making for Penn State as the hosts jumped out to a 10-2 lead while the Nittany Lions had two consecutive lob attempts to Mike Watkins fail spectacularly. But Penn State responded, grabbing their first lead of the half at 19-18 with 7:52 left. The lead seesawed a few times before the interval, thanks to contributions from Bolton that included a pair of threes. The freshman has had more ups than downs as of late, finding some consistency as the season wears on. His classmate Myles Dread had been playing well prior to Monday night, but scored just two points on 1-5 shooting on this occasion.
Bolton knocked down the back end of a pair of free throws to give him 10 for the half and give Penn State a 32-30 lead at the break. It was all about Stevens in the second half, as the junior added 10 points and matched the three assists he registered in the first half to tie his career-high of six dimes in a contest. Stevens, Wheeler, and Josh Reaves continually harassed and harangued the point guard-less Wildcats, not giving anyone but big man Dererk Pardon much room to operate. Northwestern's frustration started early in the second half, as Anthony Gaines incredibly picked up four personal fouls (one technical) in less than a minute.
Chris Collins' de facto point guard sat until Penn State had built up a big enough cushion thanks to their aggressiveness on the offensive end, where they visited the charity stripe 16 times to Northwestern's three at Welsh-Ryan. The Lions weren't much better than they've typically been this season (11-16 FT in the second half) but it was the volume that counted when both teams shot 28% from the field.
Style points won't concern Pat Chambers, who finally gets this monkey off his back after eight straight losses. Obviously it's little more than consolation for the Nittany Lions, who are on the road again on Thursday when they visit Columbus to see if any of the magic from last season's squad remains against Ohio State. Though there wasn't any looking forward in the locker room tonight:
loud screams and DMX can be heard from a celebratory Penn State locker room— Inside NU (@insidenu) February 5, 2019