By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Brittany Basinger is listed on the depth chart as a defender, but she is much more than just that, and she showed it Thursday night.
Basinger's primary duty is to police the left quarter of the defense as the left back, but she's never static. The redshirt senior from Purcellville, Va. must run at least a mile up and down the left flank game in and game out. She might cover more ground than any other Nittany Lion over the course of a match.
Basinger was at it again Thursday night, sprinting up constantly to get involved on offense and retreating back to help the defense when necessary. She was one of the focal points of the offensive attack, which went through the left half for the majority of time that she was on the pitch.
Midfielder Emily Ogle and forwards Frannie Crouse and Megan Schafer continuously fed Basinger with through balls down the left flank, and the redshirt senior would instinctively find a seam and send a cross into the box.
Basinger's aggressiveness offensively led to 15 shots and eight on target in the first half against one of the stingiest defenses in the country. The first Penn State goal in Penn State's 3-0 win was primarily Basinger's doing.
In the fourth minute Crouse dished a pass backward to Basinger who took one touch and flew a curling cross into the box that landed right on Schafer's head and she was able to finish to give the Nittany Lions an early lead.
"Today we were really focusing on big five moments and giving each other boosts throughout the entire game, and it just happened to come and [Schafer] did a fantastic job to finish it," Basinger said.
The assist was Basinger's first of the season.
Basinger also made her impact felt on the defensive end early in the first half. She nabbed three solo steals in the first five minutes of the game and finished with five in the half.
She played a key role in a dominating first half performance for the Nittany Lions defensively. Penn State didn't allow a Northwestern shot until the 40th minute.
Most players don't have the skills to be an offensive firecracker and a defensive stone wall in the same game, but Basinger isn't most players.
"[Basinger] was a warrior for us today," said head coach Erica Dambach. "That's your fifth-year senior captain. That's what you would expect in Big Ten play. She knows the mentality that she needs to bring, and she shares it with the group."
Penn State tallied another goal in the 42nd minute off an Ogle free kick from 24 yards out. The redshirt junior ripped a bullet around the wall and into the bottom right corner to give the Nittany Lions a two-goal cushion at halftime.
"It's something that the whole team works on every day in training, and we want to be strong in all aspects of our set pieces," Ogle said. "We've been training it, working it, trying to get the details, so it's good that we finally got one today."
Basinger showed off even more of her versatility in the second half. She entered in the 54th minute after a much-needed rest, but this time she lined up as a center back.
Center back and left back may be a slot next to each other on the pitch, but the two have completely different duties. Basinger had to dial back on her attacking role and focus solely on being the last line of defense.
"I'm working on center back," Basinger said. "It's different. Just being in a different part of the field is a change but we're working on it."
Penn State added an insurance goal in the 48th minute courtesy of Charlotte Williams and the game was all but sealed.
The three-goal shutout is all the more impressive taking into account Northwestern's defensive dominance of late. Wildcat goalkeeper Lauren Clem was a third-team All-American last year and is tied for 15th all-time with 39 shutouts in her career.
The last time Northwestern gave up three goals was in 2015 to West Virginia. Penn State also beat the Wildcats 3-0 that season.
"They had a good game plan and I thought our movement was quite good and we were able to unlock them a little bit," Dambach said. "That's a very good team that we just put three goals away on."
Penn State moved to 24-3-0 all-time against Northwestern. The Blue and White have outscored the Wildcats 17-5 in their last six matchups.
The Nittany Lions dive back into the conference slate Sunday at home against Illinois at 1 p.m.