No. 20 Penn State at Northwestern Preview: Lions Need to End the Regular Season on a High Note

By Nick Polak on March 6, 2020 at 12:44 pm
Northwestern Basketball is bad
© Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports
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Northwestern Wildcats
7-22 (2-17 Big Ten)
Roster / Schedule
4:00 p.m. ET - Saturday, March 7
Welsh-Ryan Arena
Evanston, IL
Watch Info: BTN | Gametracker
KenPom Rank: 134
Read: Latest Bracket Predictions

No. 20 Penn State heads into its final game of the regular season in need of some good vibes. After blowing a 19-point lead at home to Michigan State on Senior Night, this team is in desperate need of a win heading into the Big Ten Tournament.

Thankfully, that's where Northwestern comes in. Though the Wildcats have fought hard all season long, they just haven't been able to translate that into wins. The Cats have just two wins in Big Ten play, both coming against Nebraska.

Projected Starters
Northwestern   Penn State
Boo Buie - 6'2" - Fr. 1 Jamari Wheeler - 6'1" - Jr.
Pat Spencer - 6'3" - Sr. 2 Myreon Jones - 6'3" - So.
Miller Kopp - 6'7" - So. 3 Seth Lundy - 6'6" - Fr.
Robbie Beran - 6'9" - Fr. 4 Lamar Stevens - 6'8" - Sr.
Ryan Young - 6'10" - Fr. 5 John Harrar - 6'9" - Jr.

scouting report

As was the case the first time around, there just isn't much to fear here from Northwestern. Boo Buie is capable of putting up some points and Miller Kopp is the team's top scorer, but the Wildcats simply lack the depth and consistency required to come up with winning performances in the Big Ten.

Last time around, the Nittany Lions dominated that glass (42-30) including a 13-5 offensive rebound advantage. John Harrar and Mike Watkins will look to victimize the young front court of Northwestern as they did back in mid-February.

Northwestern was also dismal from three-point land in the first meeting, shooting just 2-of-14 beyond the arc.

Keys to the game

All of that being said, this Wildcast team still isn't the type that you can sleepwalk against. They play hard, and they play physical, and while the talent isn't quite there, they'll still make you earn your win.

For Penn State, if it is able to come up with a strong defensive performance, the offensive end of things should take care of itself. Northwestern simply doesn't have the firepower to match the Nittany Lions, even if the Lions are having a bit of an off night.

Still, for Pat Chambers and his team, this game is as much about preparing for the postseason as anything else. They will surely be looking to build a large lead quickly so they can give some rest to the starters ahead of the conference tournament.

Lamar Stevens, in particular, is someone who will hopefully get the chance to take a seat for an extended portion of this one. As discussed in the podcast, he just looks tired lately. Getting him rest and allowing the team to truly run through Myreon Jones for a bit will do each of them some good, as Jones is still working his way back into the flow of the game after his extended absence.

prediction

This one should be pretty straight forward. Northwestern is a scrappy team that will surely give it their all in their final home game of the season, but without the extra juice of trying to win for the seniors (Pat Spencer is the only senior in the starting lineup), it likely won't be enough to knock off the Lions.

Look for Penn State to run through Jones early and try to generate plenty of open looks for Seth Lundy and Myles Dread in hopes of helping them find their consistency ahead of tournament time. Also, look for John Harrar to continue his recent success on the offensive end of the floor.

Penn State 81, Northwestern 68

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