NEW YORK — With the game on the line and quite possibly a trip to the NCAA Tournament, Tony Carr didn’t hesitate to put Penn State on his back.
Carr scored 25 points and hit two 3-pointers and set up another in the final minutes as the seventh-seeded Nittany Lions made a late rush to hold off Northwestern 65-57 in the second round of the Big Ten Conference Tournament on Thursday night.
“He was huge down the stretch of the game,” fellow guard Shep Garner. “Big play after big play after big play. And that’s what he does for this team. He makes big plays on the offensive end. We’re kind of used to it at this point. We don’t take it for granted, but we’re kind of used to it at this point.”
Penn State (20-12) broke its school record for a Big Ten Tournament game by hitting 13 three-pointers in snapping a three-game losing streak and setting up a quarterfinal game on Friday against No. 13 and second-seeded Ohio State at Madison Square Garden.
The Nittany Lions, who posted their first 20-win season since 2008-09, beat the Buckeyes twice in the regular season.
Beating banged up Northwestern (15-17) wasn’t easy. The Wildcats hung tough most of the game and didn’t falter until the end when Penn State scored 13 straight points.
“We defended and rebounded when we had to for most of the game,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “But really at the end, the last four minutes when we went on that run, just everybody really buckled down and got some stops there.”
Carr hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 4:06 to play to give Penn State a 55-54 lead and ignite the game deciding run. He later set up a 3-pointer by Josh Reaves that expanded the lead to 58-54 with 3:03 to go and he followed with his sixth 3-pointer a minute later for a seven-point lead.
“They went to some of their favorite action and just got him in ball screens,” Northwestern guard Bryant McIntosh said of Carr. “And he obviously knew it was winning time, and he stepped up and got aggressive offensively and was just looking to make plays. To his credit, he did.”
Reaves finished with 15 points and Garner had 12.
Dererk Pardon has 14 points and eight rebounds for Northwestern, which finished its season on a seven-game losing streak. It was a major disappointment for the Wildcats who went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time last season and had high hopes coming into this season.
“Although I’m disappointed to lose the game, I’m more disappointed I won’t get a chance to coach these guys anymore,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said.
Scottie Lindsey added 12 points for Northwestern before fouling out with 3:15 to play on an offensive foul.
Neither team led by more than four points in the final 15 minutes until Penn State took control late.
McIntosh gave Northwestern its last lead at 54-52 with 4:33 to go with an off-balance jumper from the left baseline.
Carr, who scored 15 points in the first half and was blanked for the opening 13 minutes of the second half, then gave Penn State the lead with one of his high-arcing shots.
The first half ended in a 30-all tie but the most interesting play was a flagrant foul called against Lindsey with 4:47 left in the half and Northwestern ahead 25-19. Carr seemingly had a shot blocked on the offensive end and Lindsey had his shot blocked on the other end.
Carr then came to the bench with his mouth bleeding. The officials reviewed the videotape of his blocked shot and assessed the flagrant.
Northwestern: Has to regroup.
Penn State: May need one more win in tournament to nail down an NCAA berth.
Northwestern: Next season.
Penn State: Faces second-seeded Ohio State in the tournament quarterfinals on Friday.
PENN STATE 65, NORTHWESTERN 57
NORTHWESTERN (15-17) — Pardon 6-11 2-3 14, Benson 4-5 1-2 9, Gaines 2-7 0-0 6, McIntosh 3-12 0-1 7, Lindsey 4-13 2-2 12, Skelly 1-1 5-6 7, Falzon 1-3 0-0 2, Malnati 0-0 0-0 0, Brown 0-0 0-1 0. Totals 21-52 10-15 57.
PENN STATE (20-12) — Harrar 0-2 0-0 0, Stevens 2-12 4-4 8, Reaves 6-14 0-0 15, Carr 8-20 3-4 25, Garner 4-9 0-0 12, Pierce 0-0 0-0 0, Moore 1-2 0-0 2, Wheeler 0-0 1-2 1, Bostick 1-2 0-2 2. Totals 22-61 8-12 65.
Halftime—30-30. 3-Point Goals—Northwestern 5-19 (Gaines 2-4, Lindsey 2-7, McIntosh 1-6, Falzon 0-2), Penn St. 13-29 (Carr 6-10, Garner 4-9, Reaves 3-9, Stevens 0-1). Fouled Out—Lindsey. Rebounds—Northwestern 34 (Benson 9), Penn St. 31 (Reaves 8). Assists—Northwestern 11 (McIntosh 5), Penn St. 12 (Carr 4). Total Fouls—Northwestern 15, Penn St. 14.