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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern blows another second half lead, loses to Penn State 74-70

New year, same story.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

EVANSTON, Ill. — Somehow, some way, it happened again.

Northwestern (8-4, 1-2 B1G) fell to Penn State (7-5, 2-2 B1G) by a score of 74-70 despite leading for nearly the entire game and by double-digits deep in the second half, only to surrender a lead yet again, continuing the same theme the team has suffered from over its previous two seasons.

Boo Buie led the way for Northwestern with his hot shooting, canning five triples and finishing with 22 points, while the ever-steady Pete Nance also managed to chip in 15 points of his own. Meanwhile, Penn State’s backcourt buoyed its own attack, with guards Seth Lundy and Jalen Pickett scoring 23 and 18 points, respectively.

The ‘Cats started the contest off hot, hitting three of their first four triples, courtesy of Berry, Nance and Beran, while Penn State struggled to build a rhythm. Center John Harrar was the only player who could get anything going early for the Nittany Lions, as he took advantage in the paint and scored Penn State’s first seven points.

Northwestern took an 11-6 lead into the under-16 media timeout, but Penn State came out on a 7-0 run to take the lead until Boo Buie hit a pretty stepback three to give the advantage back to the home team. The ‘Cats showed off their defensive prowess in the following minutes, as two charges taken by Young and Buie helped hold Penn State to a two-minute-long scoring drought, but missed opportunities on both ends kept the game close at 19-18 in Northwestern’s favor at the 10-minute mark.

Both teams continued to trade blows, with Northwestern’s points coming mostly from outside shots from the likes of Buie and Nance, while Penn State managed to hang around thanks to second-chance opportunities coming from offensive rebounds. A missed Nance dunk followed by a fast break layup for Harrar brought the Nittany Lions within three at the under-eight media timeout.

Guard Jalen Pickett hit a nifty turnaround jumper following the break before Beran and PSU forward Seth Lundy traded threes to make it 28-27 in favor of the ‘Cats. A stepback jumper from Pickett gave Penn State a brief lead, but Northwestern would score the last six points of the half, largely stemming from its defense, as Chris Collins’ squad forced three turnovers in the final two minutes, and NU entered the break with a 34-29 advantage.

Both teams traded buckets to start the second half. Buie picked up right where he left off hitting two quick threes, and a Beran and-one gave the ‘Cats their biggest lead of the game at 45-36 just five minutes into the half. A flurry of fouls on Northwestern on both sides of the court turned into a four-minute scoring drought, but Penn State failed to capitalize, missing a number of open looks from long range. A Ty Berry and-one three pointer extended NU’s lead back to eight with 12 left to play.

Buie’s scoring and playmaking kept the visiting team at arms’ length and extended the ‘Cats’ lead to 53-43 with under 10 to go, but four straight made Penn State jumpers of high difficulty cut the deficit all the way down to two. Northwestern continued to miss shots and turn the ball over, and a nifty floater from PSU guard Sam Sessoms evened the score at 57 apiece to cap a 9-0 run.

From there it was a battle of the stars between Nance and Lundy. Nance got it done on both ends of the floor, hitting two big shots and making a big block at the rim down the stretch. However, Lundy’s scoring could not be matched, making basket after basket. The guard’s biggest shot of the night came with 36 seconds left to play, when he made his fifth three of the game to give Penn State a 66-63 lead. A missed layup from Buie followed by a defensive foul on Audige put the Nittany Lions at the free throw line, where Sessoms converted both to give the visitors a two-possession lead.

Beran was able to hit a quick layup, but an and-one layup off an inbound for Lundy all but sealed the game. The ‘Cats valiantly played the foul game at the end of it all and gave themselves an opportunity with a last-minute steal, but Audige missed the corner three to tie it. Both he and Collins were adamant that a foul should have been called, yet no whistle came, and NU lost its second consecutive game.

Northwestern goes on the road Sunday afternoon when they take on Ohio State in Columbus at 4:30 p.m. CT on Big Ten Network.