Game: Penn State (14-15, 5-11 Big Ten) at Northwestern (12-17, 5-11 Big Ten)
Date: March 6, 2014
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST
With just two regular season games remaining, the Penn State Nittany Lions will look to end on a positive note before heading to the Big Ten Tournament. The first of the final two games features a matchup with fellow Big Ten basement-dweller Northwestern. Both teams have really struggled in conference play, registering just five wins.
The Nittany Lions have shown glimpses of a team capable of making noise in the conference this season, but have not been consistent enough to carry it through. Penn State has lost five conference games by five points or less. In their last outing, the Nittany Linos fell 71-66 against the Wisconsin Badgers.
Guard D.J. Newbill, who’s really come on late in the season, led the way against the Badgers, scoring 23 points. He is averaging 17.8 points a game, ranking him third in the conference. Newbill’s backcourt partner, senior Tim Frazier, has been perhaps the most important player for the team all season. He struggled against Wisconsin, scoring just ten points, but averages 15.8 a game. Frazier leads the Big Ten in assists and holds the Penn State all-time record for career assists.
For much of the season the Nittany Lions have had to rely heavily on it guards, mainly Frazier and Newbill, for production. However, forwards Ross Travis and Brandon Taylor have both stepped up their game as of late. Travis is fifth in the conference in rebounding and has back-to-back games in which he pulled down eight boards. Taylor scored nine points and grabbed 10 rebounds against Wisconsin. He’s averaging 9.2 points and 4.7 rebounds.
Aside from a few times, the Nittany Lions have had trouble putting together two solid halves of basketball. Starting with the contest at Northwestern, they will look to play that brand of basketball that helped them to two big wins over the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Northwestern enters the matchup with Penn State having lost six straight games. However, for as bad as its been, the Wildcats do have two wins over ranked opponents, a 49-43 victory over then No. 23 Illinois and a 65-56 road win over then No. 14 Wisconsin. Those are the few bright spots in a season that’s been disappointing. Statistically, the Wildcats rank near the bottom of several categories in the nation. Their 60 points a game ranks 348th and their 39.6 field goal percentage is ranked 342nd.
Leading the way for the Wildcats is Drew Crawford. He averages 15.5 points a game and 6.5 rebounds a game, both team highs. Helping him out are JerShon Cobb (12.2 PPG) and Tre Demps (11.1 PPG).
The Wildcats have not played good basketball for much of the season and have been even more inconsistent than the Nittany Lions. This game may not be the prettiest to watch, but could wind up being very competitive as both teams are looking for a positive end to the regular season. The two schools met twice last season, with each team winning a game on the road. Penn State won 66-59 in Evanston a year ago.
Penn State has recently been getting some production from players other than Newbill and Frazier. Look for a good game from Travis and Taylor and keep an eye on someone like John Johnson or Geno Thorpe off the bench.
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