STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Northwestern had lost 15 of its 19 its previous road games against Penn State heading into Thursday night.
"We haven't had much success at this place," Wildcats coach Bill Carmody said. "We reminded our team of that."
Carmody and the Wildcats left the Bryce Jordan Center with a win for the second straight season.
A balanced scoring attack and a solid defensive effort gave Northwestern its first Big Ten victory of the season, a 70-54 rout of a Penn State team that was flat at both ends of the floor.
"I thought we did a good job defensively and that's what we talked about entirely," Carmody said. "Guard and don't give them extra shots."
Dave Sobolewski led Northwestern (10-6, 1-2 Big Ten) with 18 points and added five assists. Jared Swopshire had 17 points and seven rebounds, Reggie Hearn contributed 14 points and Kale Abrahamson had 10 points.
Northwestern trailed 12-8 about eight minutes into the game before Sobolewski and Swopshire combined for 11 points during a 13-0 run. Northwestern, which had won by a point in the Jordan Center last February, had just 33 points at the half but shot a tidy 48 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes.
"We haven't been shooting the ball that great," Carmody said. "So we tried to sort of ignore it so we didn't put too much heat on these guys."
Carmody said the Wildcats wanted to keep Penn State off the offensive glass, and although the Nittany Lions grabbed 15 offensive rebounds, they were able to turn them into just eight second-chance points.
Penn State (8-7, 0-3) got 20 points from guard D.J. Newbill and 13 from backcourt mate Jermaine Marshall. The Nittany Lions shot 32 percent from the field, missing a number of shots from point-blank range, and made only 3 of 15 3-point shots.
Penn State coach Patrick Chambers did not make players available to reporters after the game but accepted responsibility for the loss.
"I have to do a better job," he said. "A much better job of preparing my team and getting them ready to play. This one's on me."
Penn State cut the deficit to 13 points at 46-33 on two free throws by Marshall with 11:39 remaining, but the Wildcats answered with a 10-2 run in the next four minutes to go up 56-35. A sparse crowd announced at 6,479 headed for the exits early.
Chambers said the Nittany Lions are "a feel-good team" at the moment.
"We make shots, we'll play hard," he said. "We're not making shots, we don't play hard. We've got to get over that hump."
Hearn and Swopshire had nine points each and Sobolewski added eight in the first half for the Wildcats, who committed just three turnovers in the first half. Northwestern's starters scored 59 of the team's 70 points.
Northwestern, which generated open shots against Penn State's zone defense and frustrated the Nittany Lions with its own zone, took control with a 25-4 run that spanned most of the half.
Penn State scored only six points in the final 12 minutes of the first half and shot 31 percent from the field for the half.
"They had some open shots at the basket that just seemed to fall out," Carmody said.
Newbill and Marshall, the team's two leading scorers, combined to go 2 of 10 from the field and finished the half with a combined four points. Four Nittany Lions starters had at least two personal fouls in the opening half.
The usually upbeat Chambers didn't have a problem with his players' shot selection, but he said the Nittany Lions are missing the sense of urgency and desperation they'll need to compete in the Big Ten.
"If you don't play hard, you're not going to give yourself a chance to win," Chambers said. "It's not their fault. It's on me. I'm not sure what positivity I can take out of this one. And it falls on my shoulders."
NOTES: Penn State has won 10 of its last 13 games against Northwestern. ... The Wildcats were averaging 8.3 3-pointers per game, the nation's 27th-best total. ... The Nittany Lions have won just four of their first 20 Big Ten games under Chambers.