Penn St. 60, Northwestern 42
INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Geary Claxton had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Penn State’s zone defense stymied cold-shooting Northwestern 60-42 in the first round of the Big Ten Conference tournament on Thursday.
The victory sent Penn State (15-13) into the quarterfinals on Friday against No. 7 Ohio State, the tournament’s top seed. The Buckeyes beat the Nittany Lions 72-69 in the first round last year.
Northwestern (14-15), which lost to Penn State in both regular-season meetings this year, was the Big Ten’s lowest-scoring and worst 3-point shooting team, yet six of the Wildcats’ first eight shots were from long range. Northwestern tied a tournament record with 31 3-point attempts for the game but missed 12 straight during one stretch of the second half, when Penn State built a 26-point lead.
The Nittany Lions outscored the Wildcats 17-3 for a 55-29 lead before Northwestern started hitting from outside.
Two straight 3-pointers by Mohamed Hachad, who led Northwestern with 16 points, and another 3-pointer by Evan Seacat helped cut Penn State’s lead to 17 points with just over a minute to go.
Travis Parker and Mike Walker added 10 points each for Penn State. Vederan Vukusic, the Big Ten’s scoring leader at 19.4 points a game this season, had 10 points for Northwestern but played much of the second half in foul trouble.
Penn State, winning its first game in the tournament since 2001, hit three straight 3-pointers and raced to a a 13-3 lead before a fast-break layup by Hachad gave Northwestern just its second basket in the first 10 minutes of the game.
Two straight scores by Claxton gave Penn State its biggest lead of the first half at 29-14 before the Vukusic’s first basket. A 3-pointer by Seacat and another layup by Hachad cut the lead to seven points, but Claxton’s rebound tip with 4 seconds to go put Penn State up 31-21 at the half.
The Wildcats came within eight points early in the final period before Penn State began pulling away. The final score marked the Nittany Lions’ largest winning margin in their tournament history.
Northwestern shot just 32 percent for the game and hit only seven of their 31 shots from behind the arc.