Northwestern (16-11) at Penn State (12-16)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday February 25th, 9:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bryce Jordan Center (15,261) -- University Park, Pennsylvania. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: NU 11-4, PSU 10-5. Away Record: NU 2-7, PSU 1-10. Neutral Record: NU 3-0, PSU 1-1. Conference Record: NU 6-9, PSU 4-11. Series Record: Series Record: Penn State leads, 26-12.
GAME NOTES: The Northwestern Wildcats continue their quest to become the first team in program history to make it to the NCAA Tournament as they head to the Bryce Jordan Center to battle the Penn State Nittany Lions in a must-win Big Ten Conference battle.
This will be the second encounter of the season and 39th in history between the Wildcats and Penn State. Northwestern trails 26-12 in the all-time series after its 68-56 victory on New Year's Day earlier this season. The Wildcats were able to drain 55 percent of their field goal attempts in the first bout, while Penn State shot a mediocre 34 percent from the floor.
Head coach Billy Carmody saw his Wildcats drop a 67-55 decision in an overtime thriller to the nationally ranked Michigan Wolverines on Tuesday, which has put the team on the fringe of an NCAA at large bid. Northwestern would most likely eliminate itself from the Big Dance discussions with a loss tonight as it comes in with a 16-11 overall record. A victory tonight would also be helpful to keep pace in the Big Ten standings, as the Wildcats could still climb to as high as fourth in the league. Northwestern's success has come from its patient Princeton style offense which mixes in a multitude of three-point attempts. The Wildcats have struggled with injuries which has left their front line rather slim.
John Shurna became Northwestern's all-time leading scorer in the squad's win over Minnesota, now he will look to cement his legacy in Evanston by driving his team into the NCAA Tournament. Shurna has been a sensation all year, as he leads the Big Ten in scoring with 20.0 ppg. Drew Crawford has been a steady second option as he is ranked fifth in the league in scoring with 16.2 ppg. Dave Sobolewski and Reggie Hearn have been significant contributors down the stretch in wake of unfortunate injuries to JerShon Cobb and Luka Mirkovic. Cobb recently returned to action, but has gone just 1-of-11 from the floor in his four games since coming back.
Penn State is not going to roll over and be a red carpet for the Wildcats in this one. The Nittany Lions won two in a row before hanging tough with the nationally ranked Wisconsin Badgers on Sunday. Head coach Patrick Chambers has led the Nittany Lions to a 12-16 overall record and a 4-11 mark in Big Ten action in his first year with the program. All four of PSU's conference wins have come at home, where it is 10-5 overall.
Northwestern's freshman point guard Sobolewski is going to really be tested as he goes up against the Nittany Lions' star floor general, Tim Frazier. Penn State's point guard is second in the Big Ten in scoring with 18.5 ppg while also distributing a league best 6.3 assists per contest. Sophomore guard Jermaine Marshall has established himself as a legitimate scoring threat, as he is second on the team after netting double-digit scoring outputs in his last seven games. Cammeron Woodyard and Jonathan Graham are important role players for PSU as well.
NU has struggled this season against teams that possess the size or sharpshooting ability to shred its 1-3-1 zone. Although Frazier is an undeniable gamer, he is not going to be able to tame the Wildcats on his own. The dynamic duo of Shurna and Crawford should be able to keep Northwestern's dream alive. Cobb will not be relied upon heavily in this one, but he really needs to shake off the cobwebs and get back in tune for the Wildcats to make a run.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northwestern 73, Penn State 65
02/25 10:35:20 ET