Nittany Lions Win Third Straight Big Ten Opener Downing Northwestern, 61-57
Dec. 31, 2008
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA., Dec. 31, 2008 - Led by 19 second half points from Talor Battle (Albany, N.Y.) the Nittany Lion basketball team overcame sickness, its lowest scoring half of the season and an 11-point second half deficit to down Northwestern, 61-57. It marked Penn State's third straight Big Ten season opening win and improved the Nittany Lions to 12-2 on the year, the team's best start since the 1995-96 season. Northwestern, which entered the game ranked No. 10 in the RPI, fell to 8-3.
"I'm really proud of our kids," Penn State coach Ed DeChellis, who improved to 4-2 in Big Ten openers, said. "Last night we got a call from our trainer that Danny Morrissey had the flu and that he was not going to be able to play today. Then, before the game, D.J. Jackson came down with the same thing. He tried to play a little bit. He couldn't do much. Then, (Jamelle) Cornley was vomiting during half time as well. So, we've got this flu thing going around. It's hit at a real tough time. But, saying all that, I think Battle second half was unbelieveable. I think our kids gutted out and we found a way to win."
Battle scored eight straight points during a crucial Nittany Lion run that gave Penn State the lead in the second half on his way to a season-high 26 points. The Big Ten's leading scorer added a game-high 12 rebounds for his third career double-double and his second of the season. Battle equaled a career-high making seven threes in 13 attempts, most from NBA range, for his seventh 20-point game of the season.
"I just think he wasn't gonna lose," DeChellis said of Battle. "He made big shot after big shot after big shot. Sometimes players have to step up and make big plays and he did."
Stanley Pringle (Virginia Beach. Va.) added 14 points, including two free throws to seal the win as Penn State made 7-of-10 from the line in the final five minutes and 14-of-20 for the game. Jeff Brooks (Louisville, Ky.), starting his first game of the season, logged nine points and four boards, including some clutch free throws late.
The Nittany Lions dominated the glass posting a season high 46 boards to win the rebounding battle by 22. Andrew Jones (Philadelphia, Pa.) grabbed 10 of those boards as Penn State held a Northwestern team intent on getting back on defense to just one offensive rebound and no second-chance points. Penn State logged 14 second-chance points on 19 offensive boards.
The Wildcats were led by 16 points from freshman John Shurna. Their big three of Kevin Coble, Craig Moore and Michael Thompson had 11, 11 and 10, respectively.
Penn State shot a season-low 31 percent from the field while the Wildcats hit for 45.6 percent, but the Lions outscored Northwestern by nine from behind the arc (11 threes to eight) and by 11 at the free throw line.
Trailing by four, 25-21, entering the second half, Penn State went scoreless for nearly four minutes as Northwestern built its lead to 11, 32-21. Coble scored seven of the Wildcats nine points, hitting a three and a pair of lay-ups. Northwestern got buckets in transition and forced a Penn State timeout at the 15:08 mark when Coble made an acrobatic finish in transition for a 34-23 lead.
Penn State made just eight of its first 36 shots in the game and was shooting 22 percent with 15 minutes to play. Then Battle took matters into his own hands helping spark a 13-2 Nittany Lion run that brought Penn State even at 36 all with 11:11 to play. Jeff Brooks started the run with a three-pointer and then freshman Chris Babb followed with a pair of free throws.
Battle then scored eight straight points, hitting a pair of threes and getting a put-back off an offensive board. Battle's pull-up three from the top of the key tied the game at 36 and the Jordan Center crowd roared to life.
Jones was called for a phantom elbow after a strong defensive board and NU used the possession to break its scoring run with a Coble bucket that put them back on top 38-36. Battle responded immediately hitting a 25-foot three from the top of the key. On the Lions next possession, Battle drove baseline and fed Jones with a great pass. Jones was fouled and went to the line making both to give Penn State a 41-38 lead.
NU scored the next three to tie the game at 41, but Battle continued to fill it up hitting another deep three. Moore responded with his own deep three. Penn State scored the next eight, though, to build a 52-44 lead with under five minutes to play.
Brooks sparked the run with a nice drive and strong finish. Battle kept it going hitting from deep again and then pulling a defensive board on the other end. Pringle then dropped yet another NBA-range three from the top of the key.
Thompson hit a deep three for NU and the Lions led 52-47 going into a media timeout with 3:33 to play. Pringle hit a big shot from the baseline as the shot clock ran down, but Shurna scored four of NU's next six and the Wildcats pulled within two, 56-54. Northwestern sent Brooks to the line with 31 seconds to play and the sophomore calmly drained a pair to put Penn State back up four. Battle extended the lead to five, 59-54, with a free throw off his own, but Moore gave NU life with a 35 foot three with seconds remaining.
Northwestern fouled immediately and send Pringle to the line where he knocked down both for the final margin.
Despite struggling through its lowest scoring and worst shooting half of basketball on the season, Penn State trailed Northwestern by just four, 25-21 at the half. The Nittany Lions shot just 24 percent from the floor as they struggled to find open looks inside the three-point line against Northwestern's 3-2 zone.
Battle led the way scoring seven points with a pair of threes. Pringle contributed six first half points. The Wildcats were led by Shurna's nine points in the first half as they used good screening and back cuts to find several open lay-ups out of their half court offense.
Penn State took and early 8-3 lead on Battle three, but Northwestern used a 15-3 run to seize control and an 18-11 lead as the Nittany Lions went ice cold from the floor. Craig Moore stole the ball on a bad Nittany Lion pass and scored a lay-up for a 13-10 lead. Shurna then posted back-to-back buckets, one a three, for the 18-11 margin.
Battle responded with a bucket for Penn State, but NU extended its lead to nine scoring the next four points, including a lay-up from Shurna for a 22-13 lead. Penn State scored the next four, the last three coming on a trey from Babb to get back within five with 3:58 to play.
Battle pushed the Penn State run to 8-0 as he made a free throw and an NBA three and Penn State trailed by just one, 22-21, with two minutes to play in the half.
A three from Moore broke the Penn State run and gave the Wildcats a four-point lead at the half.
The Nittany Lions will look to continue their five-game win streak in the new year when they head to Madison, Wisconsin to take on the Badgers on Sat, Jan. 3. That game is scheduled for a 2:00 p.m (ET) tip on the Big Ten Network.