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61


Northwestern (8-2) at Penn State (11-2)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Wednesday, December 31st, 12:00 p.m. (et).

FACTS & STATS: Site: Bryce Jordan Center (15,261) -- State College, Pennsylvania. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Northwestern 7-0, PSU 8-1. Away Record: Northwestern 1-2, PSU 2-0. Neutral Record: Northwestern 0-0, PSU 1-1. Conference Record: Northwestern 0-0, PSU 0-0. Series Record: Penn State leads, 21-12.

GAME NOTES: Riding a four-game win streak, the Penn State Nittany Lions kick off their Big Ten Conference slate this afternoon with a meeting against the Northwestern Wildcats at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College. Since losing to Temple back on December 6th, the Lions have remained untouched and have run their home record to 8-1, thanks to a 73-65 victory against Sacred Heart on December 23rd. As for the Wildcats, they too have been off since December 23rd when they took care of SMU in a 66-55 final at home. The win was the fifth in the last six outings and kept the team undefeated at home at 7-0. The Nittany Lions won the most recent meeting between these teams with a 79-68 triumph a season ago on the road, giving PSU a 21-12 advantage in the all-time series as a result.

The Wildcats survived 18 turnovers and 13-of-20 shooting at the free-throw line eight days ago when they defeated SMU at home. Craig Moore and Michael Thompson both tallied 14 points as they combined to shoot 6-of-10 beyond the arc and 10-of-17 from the floor overall. John Shurna contributed another 13 points as fellow starters Kevin Coble and Kyle Rowley each tallied nine points. Sporting the same starting lineup in all 10 games so far this season, Northwestern is being paced by Coble and his 14.6 ppg. He is shooting 47.9 percent from the field and an impressive 40.9 percent beyond the arc, but he could stand a little more practice at the free-throw line where he is just 57.1 percent accurate. Moore and Thompson are also hitting for double figures at the moment with averages of 13.8 and 10.3 ppg, respectively. More importantly, the defense for the Wildcats is holding opponents to just 38.6 percent shooting from the floor and a mere 52.8 ppg as a result.

Against Sacred Heart, the Nittany Lions had their way as they scored the first points of the game, led by 16 at the break and never looked back in the eight- point triumph. Talor Battle accounted for a team-best 25 points as he sank 4- of-7 shots behind the three-point line and 7-of-8 at the charity stripe. Stanley Pringle chipped in 15 points and five assists, followed by Jamelle Cornley with 13 points and a team-best nine rebounds as well. Over the course of 13 starts, Battle has produced 19.2 ppg to lead the Lions, but his contributions do not end there. Battle is also first on the team and one of the best in the Big Ten Conference in assists with five and a half per contest. Battle also clears 5.6 rpg and paces the group with his 22 steals. Cornley checks in with 14.8 ppg and a team-high 7.0 rpg for a team that is outscoring opponents by 13 ppg and beating them on the glass by almost six rebounds per contest as well. As a group, the Nittany Lions are shooting an impressive 40.2 percent from three-point range, compared to only 28.9 percent for the opposition.

Penn State has been strong at home this season, but to this point the team really hasn't had a tough test, which is why Northwestern has a fighting chance in this particular contest.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Penn State 66, Northwestern 63

12/31 10:23:41 ET