Northwestern has now won three straight after a 10-game losing streak and is looking to end the year on a high note and maybe play spoiler down the stretch against some tournament hopefuls.
Overall grade: A-
The Nittany Lions came out firing and their first five field goals were threes, but Chris Collins seemed to motivate the Wildcats during the first media timeout and they turned up their intensity after that. Maybe the team came out a little lethargic because Penn State is one of the rare teams that are below the Wildcats in the Big Ten standings. But they got it going and turned in a dominant defensive performance.
After the initial barrage of three pointers, one might have thought this was going to be a high scoring game, but the Wildcats really clamped down defensively after that. This has to be considered one of their best defensive performances on the season, as the 2-3 zone did what it was supposed to do and forced the Nittany Lions into tough shots over the zone. It also should be noted that the Wildcats held D.J. Newbill to only three points. Newbill is not only Penn State's leading scorer on the year, but is also the leading scorer in all the Power 5 conferences.
The offense was generally effective and the Wildcats moved the ball well, surpassing their season average in assists. Vic Law had a huge game, notching a double-double with 17 points and 11 boards, as well as providing a block and two steals. He provided great energy off the bench as the sixth man and this could lead to Collins utilizing him him as a sixth man in the games to come.
Olah had a great game defensively, anchoring the middle of the 2-3 zone and setting the tone with his physical play. His two blocks gave him a share of Northwestern's all-time blocks record, a mark he figures to break soon. There were successive defensive possessions early in the game where Olah had a nifty weak side block and then took a charge. He set the tone early for the Wildcats on defense.
Demps had another solid game, with 16 points on only 10 field goal attempts. He was 4-4 from the free throw line and hit some tough shots when Northwestern needed a basket. When Penn State almost made this one a close game after halftime, cutting the deficit to single digits, Demps stepped up and put a stop to it. His slam dunk early in the second half ignited the crowd and got the fans on their feet.
McIntosh did not have a great game shooting the ball, but was able to make up for it with crafty passing and making smart decisions with the ball. He only had two turnovers compared to eight assists, for a solid 4-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He had a wonderful one handed bounce pass, a lá D'Angelo Russell that led to a wide open three pointer for Law. His work rate at the top of the zone helped force the Nittany Lions into contested, deep shots.
Lumpkin did not have a great game, going 0-2 from the field but he did have six boards and drew a charging call after a wild sequence of events in the second half. He was called for two early travels that were his two turnovers and didn't seem to be able to ever get in the flow of the game and make an impact. However, the early second half charge he took was a momentum-changer.
Law had a very impressive game, providing energy off the bench as the sixth man and going 3-5 from behind the arc. He was probably the player of the game for the Wildcats, maybe co-player of the game along with Olah. His athleticism was on display in transition and he seems to have found his stroke from deep in the last few games. He came down awkwardly after a fast break layup in the first half and had to go to the bench for a few possessions, a moment that surely made Collins anxious. But Law was able to shake it off and turn in an exceptional game. If he can continue this level of play for the rest of the year, people will have high expectations for him going into next year.
Lindsey only played 10 minutes in this contest and had little discernible impact. He banged his hip in the second half and didn't return.
Sobolewski had a very well played game, scoring eight points on only three attempts and not committing any turnovers. He made one three-pointer and was fouled on another, converting all three free throws. He played well defensively at the top of the zone and displayed good energy off the bench.
Skelly didn't have much impact in this game, only playing nine minutes. He had some nice passes, though, that led to easy finishes for the Wildcats. The freshman was also physical presence down low in the 2-3 zone.
Kreisberg only came on in the final minute when this game was out of reach and almost recorded a trillion, if not for his one personal foul committed.
Taphorn didn't have much impact in the box score, despite playing 19 minutes. But his presence defensively helped the Wildcats hold the Nittany Lions to only 39 points, their season low. This is only his third game back after missing time with a leg injury and it might take some time for him to get back in the game flow.
Only played at the tail end of this game. Nothing notable.