March 1, 2010

Recap: Penn State 79, (just)Northwestern 60

As Penn State basketball fans, it's easy for us to cry 'Woe is us' and pretend we're the worst power conference team in college basketball history while in the midst of getting beat yet again versus a top-tier Big Ten school. Games such as yesterday's though remind us of the one thing we can point at to make ourselves feel better: At least we're not Northwestern fans.

You see, Northwestern has not only failed to make one single appearance in the NCAA Tournament since its inception over 70 years ago, they also sport a nice futility mark against the rest of the Big Ten, including a 2-14 record at Penn State. Yesterday's dominating victory (19 points, which ironically was PSU's most lopsided conference win since winning by 26 points back in 2007 guessed it: Northwestern) was far and away, the most complete game we've seen this group of Fighting DeChellises put together all year long.

The first half was a perfectionist's paradise with PSU shooting 68% from the floor (17-for-25), and only attempting five three-pointers (of which they hit on all but one of those attempts) in the process. The majority of the buckets consisted of layups and dunks which were the product of solid spacing and ball movement on PSU's part, a rare sight this season. Even Sasa Borovnjak(>>>>pictured, right) of all people got in on the action. Not to mention, PSU only turned the ball over TWICE in the first half. The score at halftime was 49-35 PSU, had it not been for Northwestern shooting the ball fairly well themselves in the first half (8-of-15 from three-point range, 40% on all shots), the lead likely would've been around 25 points. The Wildcats eventually cooled down in the second half, shooting only 25% from the floor to finish at 32% overall for the game.

As far as contributions go: The usual suspects of Talor Battle, Chris Babb, and Jeff Brooks all pitched in with double figures scoring 16, 14, and 11 points respectively. Tim Frazier and Cam Woodyard both pitched in 9 points as well. DJ Jackson only had five points and three rebounds in 19 minutes of play, but his performance is excusable since he's still grieving over his recently deceased grandfather. We here at LBU extend our condolences to DJ and his family in what has to be a difficult time for them. We also have to give props to DJ for actually deciding to suit up, it's probably what his grandpa would've wanted him to do. Andrew Jones also deserves a shout-out, with his eight points and seven boards with a block to go.

Speaking of blocks: Leave it to Northwestern to make a PSU team that KenPom ranks 320th out of 347 Division 1 basketball teams in blocking percentage look like a team full of Dikembe Mutombo wannabes. PSU collected seven blocks on the day amongst four different players, Chris Babb led the way by sending three shots towards the seats, probably forcing some unfortunate fan to spill nachos all over himself in the process. It was the type of shot-blocking performance that harkens one back to the days when Calvin Booth was making opposing players respect his defensive authori-tah.

This now marks PSU's third win in its past four games after the worst Big Ten start in program history. While the wins have included Northwestern twice and Michigan, two teams who have the same chances of making the NCAA tournament as PSU does, it nonetheless has to be a confidence-booster for the players. The swagger that players not named Talor Battle have shown over the course of the past couple of weeks is encouraging, and while I'm not about to make an absurd prediction of winning the Big Ten tournament, I will say it would be a huge mistake for opposing teams to take them lightly come next week.

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