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Rapid Reaction: ‘Cats bombarded by threes late, fall at Penn State 67-60

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The Wildcats couldn’t seem to contain PSU beyond the arc in the second half.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Beat Northwestern one time, shame on you. Beat Northwestern (13-14, 6-12 B1G) two times, shame on the Wildcats.

NU fell to Penn State (12-13, 7-10 B1G) for a second time this season on Friday evening, this time losing 67-60 after a late barrage of threes from the Nittany Lions put the game out of reach.

Sophomore guard Dallion Johnson, who averaged only three points per game heading into the contest, led all scorers with 15 behind five long-range makes. Graduate student John Harrar was dominant in the paint, grabbing 20 rebounds while adding 11 points. Pete Nance led the way for the ‘Cats with 12 points, four rebounds and two assists.

Nance opened up the scoring on the game’s first possession after a nice dish from Buie left him with an open look at the rim. Penn State answered with a three to take the lead two possessions later, but Chase Audige knocked one down from beyond the arc to reinstate the NU lead. From there, the teams scored evenly, each scoring an additional four before the first media timeout to leave the Wildcats ahead 9-7 with 15:04 left in the first.

On the Nittany Lions’ first chance out of the break, they reclaimed the lead on a Sam Sessoms three. The ‘Cats answered, but Sessoms once again was good from deep, giving his team a 13-11 advantage that Ryan Young quickly eliminated with a layup. The teams would only score once more each before the under-12 media timeout, and as such, the score remained knotted at 15.

A scoreless stretch for both teams that lasted over two minutes was broken with another Audige three. A few trips up and down the floor later, Seth Lundy drove down the lane and drew a second foul from Boo Buie. By hitting both corresponding free throws, he gave PSU its first points in several minutes. Soon thereafter, he added a three-pointer to give the hosts a 20-18 edge at the under-eight.

Following the break, Nance drained a three with around six minutes remaining to pull the ‘Cats back ahead, and by the time the next media break arrived, they had expanded their lead to three. NU didn’t stop there, extending the advantage to 26-20 before Penn State’s five minute-long scoreless streak was broken by a Harrar dunk. By the time the buzzer sounded to indicate halftime, Northwestern led 28-22 behind strong defensive play.

Much like they did in the first, the teams got off to a hot start shooting to begin the second half of play. Collectively, NU and PSU put up 13 points in the first 2:20 of latter period play, resulting in a slight cut in the Wildcats’ lead, which fell to 33-30. The teams then went ice cold for nearly three minutes, with neither scoring until Harrar laid one in to bring the score to 33-32 at the 14:50 mark. 40 seconds later, Johnson converted on a three-point attempt to give the Nittany Lions a two-point advantage.

On the ensuing NU possession, Boo Buie ended the Wildcats’ four minute-long scoreless stretch with a jumper in the paint, but the Lions simply wouldn’t stop scoring. A Myles Dread three put them back ahead, and after Ryan Young answered to cut their lead to one, they followed suit with a layup from Jalen Pickett. Young added another two points off of a short-range jumper, which left the Wildcats down only one at the 12-minute mark.

Out of the media timeout, Young continued to be Northwestern’s offensive engine, as he answered a Lundy three with a smooth layup. Elyjah Williams tied the game moments later with a layup of his own, and a Julian Roper three with eight minutes to play left NU up 46-43 at the ensuing break in the action.

After a few unsuccessful scoring attempts from each side, Nance extended Northwestern’s lead to five with around seven minutes left before Johnson drained threes on consecutive PSU possessions to give the Nittany Lions a one-point edge. Chris Collins proceeded to call timeout, and his team regained the lead moments later on a pair of free throws from Chase Audige. That lead, like most of the game’s, was short-lived, as a Pickett layup put Penn State back ahead with 4:30 to play.

After Audige missed his 11th of total 13 shots on the night, Johnson hit yet another three to extend PSU’s lead to 54-50. A Dread make from beyond the arc further grew the Penn State advantage to 57-50, prompting yet another timeout out of Collins. The coach was unable to successfully shore up his team’s defensive strategy, Sessoms put his team up by 10 with another three.

With a minute to go, Audige was able to cut the advantage to seven with just his third make of the game — all of which came from long-range. A series of miscues from the hosts made allowed NU cut the margin to as little as four points, but the comeback fell short, as, when all was said and done, PSU still wound up on top, 67-60.

The ‘Cats return to play on Tuesday, when they visit the Iowa Hawkeyes at 7 p.m. CT.