Northwestern (9-6) at Penn State (8-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 10, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bryce Jordan Center (15,261) -- University Park, Pennsylvania. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: NU 6-5, PSU 7-2. Away Record: NU 1-1, PSU 0-2. Neutral Record: NU 2-0, PSU 1-2. Conference Record: NU 0-2, PSU 0-2. Series Record: Penn State leads, 26-14.
GAME NOTES: A couple of teams still searching for their first Big Ten Conference win of the season meet in the center of the Keystone State on Thursday night, as the Penn State Nittany Lions play host to the Northwestern Wildcats.
Northwestern comes in three games over .500 overall (9-6), but 0-2 in conference play after dropping lopsided decisions to a pair of ranked rivals in Michigan (94-66) and Minnesota (69-51). Despite their positive record for the season, the Wildcats have struggled of late, losing three of their last four and six of their last nine. This bout marks just the third true road game for NU, which returns home for three of its next four starting this Sunday versus Iowa.
Penn State enters this fray under similar circumstances, sporting a favorable overall record (8-6), but seeking its first Big Ten win after suffering losses to Wisconsin and Indiana in the last week, where in both cases the team scored a mere 51 points. The Nittany Lions have won seven of their nine home games this season, and the current slide comes on the heels of a four-game win streak. PSU is in the midst of a stretch where it will play four of five in front of the hometown faithful.
Penn State owns a 26-14 advantage in the all-time series with Northwestern, but the Wildcats won both meetings last season.
Northwestern was also stuck on 51 points in its most recent outing at Minnesota, as the team shot just 38.5 percent from the field, missing 16 of its 23 3-point shots along the way. The Wildcats managed to put three players in double figures, but Reggie Hearn tallied just 11 points, and Dave Sobolewski and Tre Demps pitched in with 10 apiece for a team that got manhandled on the boards (47-20), and outscored at the foul line (17-4). With Drew Crawford expected to miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury, Hearn and Sobolewski are the only active double-digit scorers for NU, but at 14.2 and 10.9 ppg, respectively, most opponents, particularly in the ultra-competitive Big Ten, aren't going to need to create intricate game plans to try and defend the 'Cats. As a team, Northwestern is averaging 66.5 ppg in hitting 37.8 percent of its lone-range attempts, while holding the opposition to 62.3 ppg behind a typical shooting effort of .417 overall.
Ross Travis scored 14 points and Jermaine Marshall added 11 more, but those efforts weren't nearly enough to help Penn State get past fifth-ranked Indiana earlier this week. The Lions made good on only 31.7 percent of their total shots, which included a 5-of-18 showing from beyond the arc, and they were rather careless with the basketball as evidenced by their 19 turnovers, off of which the Hoosiers scored 19 points. IU drained 8-of-16 3-point tries and 52.4 percent of its field goal attempts overall, but it too had a tough time keeping possession of the ball, committing 17 turnovers. PSU was also on the short end of a 22-8 margin with regard to points from the foul line. D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall are the top two performers for the group, netting 14.9 and 14.6 ppg, respectively, and the two combine for nearly 11 rebounds and more than six assists per outing. The team is being outscored on average by just 2.7 ppg, but it does own a positive rebounding differential (+5.6). Penn State is shooting just 29.2 percent from long range.
These two teams have quite a bit in common, but the Nittany Lions have the edge playing at home. Expect them to earn their first league victory, keeping the Wildcats from doing so for at least one more game.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Penn State 66, Northwestern 62
01/10 10:32:07 ET