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Rapid Reaction: Penn State jumps out to fast start, routs Northwestern 95-55

Not a lot to smile about.

@nuwbball / Twitter

New year, same problems.

Without Joe McKeown, who missed the contest due to an illness, Northwestern (6-8, 1-2 B1G) got blown out by Penn State (10-4, 1-2 B1G) in a 95-55 clobbering. The Nittany Lions rode an early 21-0 run to seize control of the action early, and they never gave it up.

It was a balanced attack for PSU, which forced 30 NU turnovers and outscored the ‘Cats 42-4 off giveaways. Four Nittany Lions reached double figures in scoring, with Ali Brigham leading the way with 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting, four rebounds and five assists. Taylor Valladay contributed 16, Shay Ciezki scored 15 and Leilani Kapinus dropped 14.

For the Wildcats, Caileigh Walsh scored 16 points and secured eight rebounds to lead the team. Melannie Daley added 12 points, while Casey Harter and Hailey Weaver reached nine apiece.

Chanaya Pinto immediately got Penn State on the board with a layup. It set the tone for a nice offensive start for both teams, as buckets from Walsh and Daley sandwiched a Kapinus three in the first two minutes.

NU then heated up on the defensive end. Caroline Lau and Harter nabbed steals on back-to-back possessions, which led to two straight Daley makes in transition to give the Wildcats an 8-5 edge. Thanks to Harter’s three-pointer from the top of the key, NU held an 11-9 lead over the Nittany Lions heading into the first media timeout with 4:39 remaining in the first quarter.

However, the stoppage quelled Northwestern’s momentum. Penn State ripped off consecutive treys, forcing a 10-second violation with its press in the process. The Nittany Lions continued to roll, extending its run to 17-0 through the end of the first quarter. A buzzer-beating shot from Valladay put an exclamation point on the avalanche, making the score 24-11 in PSU’s favor.

Northwestern wouldn’t score again until Weaver drained a three-pointer, responding to 21 unanswered points from Penn State. From there, PSU continued to pour it on, as it forced 16 Northwestern turnovers in the first 15 minutes. Despite another bucket from Weaver heading into the under-five timeout in the second quarter, the ‘Cats found themselves down 40-18.

No. 11 continued to provide a spark off the bench, picking up a flurry of paint points to reach nine points in the second quarter and keep Northwestern within 25. A layup from Daley with 44 seconds left in the half finished a 6-0 run for the Wildcats, which brought them within 20 points. Although PSU’s Moriah Murray answered with a three-pointer, two free throws from Daley cut Northwestern’s deficit to 49-29 going into halftime.

The Nittany Lions picked up right where they left off, scoring the first five points of the second half. Harter finished a tough layup as she was falling down to respond, but it was merely a blip in a smooth opening four minutes for Penn State, which led 56-33 at the media timeout with 6:48 left in the third quarter.

From there, Northwestern’s offense froze over. To close out the quarter, the ‘Cats went over four minutes without a field goal, and Penn State embarked on a 16-4 run to end the third period. By the 30-minute mark, Northwestern had turned it over 27 times, and the Nittany Lions were outscoring Tangela Smith and Co. 38-4 off giveaways.

By the time the clock started in the final frame, the Nittany Lions had put the game well out of hand, sailing to a 95-55 victory, their first conference win of the year.

Northwestern will head home to take on No. 20 Ohio State on Friday night. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. CT, and the action will be broadcast on Big Ten Plus.