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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern storms back to beat Penn State 78-72

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It was raining threes in Happy Valley.

Revenge sure is sweet.

After dropping a home contest 63-59 to the Nittany Lions on Jan. 20, Northwestern (13-8, 5-5 B1G) earned a tenacious 78-72 win over Penn State (9-13, 3-9 B1G) in University Park at the Bryce Jordan Center. While the aforementioned loss to PSU started a four-game skid for the ‘Cats, this afternoon’s victory extended Joe McKeown’s win streak to two.

As she did just two weeks ago, Penn State’s Makenna Marisa balled out against the Wildcats, registering a game-high 25 points. For Northwestern, Veronica Burton led the charge with 22 points, eight assists and four steals, but the superstar guard also got some help from her supporting cast, with Lauryn Satterwhite, Jillian Brown, Melannie Daley and Laya Hartman all hitting the double-digit mark in points.

On a road trip to Happy Valley, both the Nittany Lions and the Wildcats donned pink-themed jerseys in honor of Basketball Hall-of-Famer Kay Yow, the legendary NC State coach who passed away from stage 4 breast cancer in 2009.

Sophomore Tova Sabel made her first career start for the Nittany Lions and promptly started the scoring with turnaround layup. On the ensuing possession, Courtney Shaw couldn’t corral a pass from Burton, but Hartman knotted things up at 2-2 with a pull-up jumper on the next series.

From there, Marisa simply could not miss, tallying six points in nearly three minutes as Penn State opened a 16-7 lead at the first media timeout. Leilani Kapinus and Sabel contributed points of their own as the Lions went on a 14-0 run.

The first-year Delay finally put an end to the scoring spurt from Penn State, converting on a second-chance jumper from the wing — her first points since Friday, Jan. 23 against Iowa.

The two teams proceeded to trade buckets, with Kelly Jekot and Daley swapping jumpers before PSU’s Anna Camden cashed in from deep. At the end of the first, Penn State led 28-18 courtesy of 11 points from Marisa.

The second quarter took a defensive turn, as both teams saw a drop in their scoring output. Brown began the the proceedings with a right-wing three, her first points of the game which cut the deficit to seven. After two Marisa hit free throws, Burton hit a triple of her own from the opposite side, making the score 30-24.

Although a Brown turnover led to a fastbreak deuce from Kapinus, the ‘Cats got revenge on the next possession. Burton ripped the ball away from Jekot and threw a dime to a cutting Hartman to cut the PSU lead to six.

Both squads went over a minute without scoring, but Caileigh Walsh drilled a three with 6:24 remaining in the half. Right after, though, PSU’s Ali Brigham spun for a layup to keep it a six-point game.

Daley ended the first half with yet another fearless pull-up two, granting her 10 points to pace Joe McKeown’s team. On the other side, Marisa tallied 17 points in 18 minutes for Carolyn Kieger as the Nittany Lions led 39-37 at the break.

Brown swished a triple to get the action started in the third quarter, giving NU its first lead in a long time at 40-39. Promptly thereafter, Marisa glided for a layup that saw PSU retake the lead.

Brown then connected with Hartman, who added a three of her own. As the Nittany Lions got the ball back, a Burton steal led to two free throws for NU, and some 25 seconds later, Hartman cashed in another three as the ‘Cats opened up a seven-point lead.

A Burton layup extended the Northwestern lead to 50-41 to cap off the Wildcats’ 10-0 run in just a minute-and-a-half. However, a layup from Kapinus, an and-one from Shay Hagans and a Brigham bucket gave PSU life during a 7-0 spurt.

Penn State tied the ballgame at 50 due to another two from Brigham, but more importantly, Burton got up gingerly and had to be assisted to the locker room.

Without Burton, Penn State retook the lead on a 6-0 run. The two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year returned to action with around two minutes left in the period, but a late Sabel three gave PSU a 62-55 advantage at the end of the third.

At the outset of the fourth, the ‘Cats started fast with a Burton layup and a free throw from Brown, but the Nittany Lions responded with a 4-0 run of their own that returned Penn State’s eight-point lead.

When the Wildcats touched the ball next, Satterwhite put down her second three of the afternoon, making it 66-61. A pair of Burton free throws narrowed the PSU lead to four, and a Hartman triple — her third — tied the game at 66 with just 6:14 left.

NU punctuated its 8-0 run with a Satterwhite three, but Kapinus and the Lions roared back to cut the Wildcat lead to one with 4:27 remaining.

After three misses from Marisa, Brown put the ‘Cats up three with a quick-trigger jumper. From there, Burton went 2-for-2 from the charity stripe as NU held a 73-68 lead with 1:37 to go in the fourth.

Marisa and Hagans had excellent opportunities in crunch time, but both missed crucial buckets. Two free throws from Brown gave the ‘Cats a seven-point lead, but Marisa responded with a bank shot to cut it to 75-70 with 21 seconds left. Even then, it wasn’t enough as Northwestern emerged victorious on the road.

Slotted at eighth in the Big Ten, Northwestern next hits the hardwood on Friday, Feb. 11, when the squad travels to play the Minnesota Golden Gophers.