Vic Law and his Northwestern teammates were eager to face Penn State again after a lopsided loss two weeks ago.
“Some of our coaches just questioned our energy and said we needed to pick it up before the game started because last time we played Penn State they blew us out,” Law said. “We need to really ramp it up.”
With that motivation and a new zone defense, the Wildcats got a different result in the rematch.
Law had 18 points and Scottie Lindsey scored 13 to lead Northwestern to a 70-61 victory over the Nittany Lions on Saturday afternoon at Allstate Arena in Rosemont.
Dererk Pardon added 12 points and Bryant McIntosh scored 10 for the Wildcats (12-9, 3-5 Big Ten), who snapped a two-game skid.
Shep Garner scored 22 points and Lamar Stevens added 13 for the Nittany Lions (13-8, 3-5), who have lost five of eight.
Northwestern switched to a zone defense after the Nittany Lions beat the visiting Wildcats 78-63 on Jan. 5.
“I learned not to play them man-to-man,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “I learned a hard lesson that way.”
Northwestern used an 11-0 run to pull ahead 66-59 with 3:26 left in the game.
Pardon scored the run’s first six points – with two dunks. Law followed with a 3 and McIntosh capped the run with a jumper. Gavin Skelly and Law combined for four free throws to seal it.
“We played the last 10 minutes of the game as well as we’ve played in crunch time of a game all year long,” Collins said.
Penn State went without a field goal over the final 10:37. The Nittany Lions shot 33 percent in the second half after shooting 68 percent before the break.
Penn State’s Tony Carr was averaging 19.6 points per game to rank second in the Big Ten but finished with just eight points. Mike Watkins’ streak of five consecutive double-doubles was snapped.
“We got the stops, but we didn’t get the rebounds,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “You can’t leave it up to Mike Watkins to get all the rebounds.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY
The Wildcats were reminded of that earlier loss to Penn State during warmups.
“We were all very disappointed, embarrassed,” McIntosh said. “The most embarrassing thing was walking out today and having them look at us and seeing them again, knowing we didn’t play to our capabilities at their place.
“In warmups, you kind of look across the floor and judge how a team is feeling. You could tell they were very confident. We used that a little bit as motivation.”
Penn State: The Nittany Lions have had to adjust without their top defender Josh Reaves, who has been suspended for academic reasons. They fell to 1-3 without Reaves.
“He makes a big difference,” Collins said. “He’s a terrific defender, he’s a playmaker. It’s a little bit different team than we faced.”
Northwestern: The Wildcats have faltered after going to the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time in school history. The schedule doesn’t get any easier – the Wildcats play five of their next six games on the road.
Aaron Falzon played three minutes after missing Northwestern’s previous game due to back spasms.
Penn State is at No. 22 Ohio State on Thursday.
Northwestern is at Minnesota on Tuesday.