STATE COLLEGE (AP) – Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said his team hadn’t shot as well as it could in losses to Michigan and Minnesota in its last two games before facing Penn State on Thursday night.
It was a different Wildcats team that took the floor in Happy Valley, as Dave Sobolewski scored 18 points and Jared Swopshire added 17 to pace Northwestern in a 70-54 Big Ten Conference victory against cold-shooting Penn State.
“We’ve been practicing hard the past few days and really tried to stress defense,” Carmody said. “We haven’t really been shooting the ball very well and we kind of just tried to ignore it, not put a lot of heat on these guys.”
The Wildcats (1-2, 10-6) used a 25-4 run over an 11-minute span to lead by 17 points, 33-16, in the first half. Penn State didn’t score a basket for nearly seven minutes during that stretch.
Northwestern shooters maintained their touch after the break, as the Wildcats made 5 of 10 from 3-point range in the second half. Freshman Kale Abrahamson matched his season-high with three 3s in the game.
“We just tried to again stress the defense, just don’t give them good shots,” Carmody said of his message at halftime. “
Carmody added that he had watched Penn State’s 74-51 loss to No. 5 Indiana Monday and noticed that offensive rebounding had kept the Nittany Lions in the game. He said he made it a point to stress attacking the defensive boards throughout Thursday’s contest.
Penn State (0-3, 8-7) struggled all night to find a rhythm offensively. The Nittany Lions, who were led by 20 points from guard D.J. Newbill, shot just 31.6 percent (18 of 57) from the floor and were just 3 of 15 beyond the arc.
Nittany Lions coach Patrick Chambers’ frustration was evident as he knelt often at the end of the Penn State bench with his head hung low. The Lions went to a full-court press early in the second half but found little success in slowing down Northwestern.
“I have to do a better job,” Chambers said. “I have to do a much better job of preparing my team and getting them ready to play. This one’s on me. We didn’t play with any energy or enthusiasm.”
Sobolewski finished a tightly contested layup on a fast break at the 14:07 mark to put Northwestern ahead by 21 points, 45-24. A pair of free throws by Jermaine Marshall cut the Wildcats’ lead to 46-33 with 11:39 remaining, but Northwestern countered with a 10-0 run to keep Penn State at bay.
Northwestern relied on the long ball throughout the game, and it was a pair of deep 3-pointers that Carmody’s squad momentum during that run. Redshirt freshman Tre Demps hit a 3 from the corner to start the stretch.
“You’re just making shots and they’re missing them,” Carmody said when asked how his team managed to go on such big runs. “When I look at the tape, I bet they had some open shots and stuff around the basket that just seemed to fall out. That’s what happens sometimes.”
The Wildcats had four different players score in double figures, as Reggie Hearn scored 14 and Abrahamson added 10. The crowd of 6,479 at the Bryce Jordan Center began filing out in the waning minutes.
“We try to do that in our offense,” said Carmody. “Usually the cream rises to the top over the course of a bunch of games, but I was happy to see ... any coach is happy to see balanced scoring.”