Penn State didn't make it easy but picked up its second win in three games, defeating Northwestern 66-59 on Thursday night in Welsh-Ryan Arena to snap a 17-game conference road losing streak. The Nittany Lions (10-19, 2-15 Big Ten) shot 49 percent from the field and 41 percent from 3-point range and overcame some late struggles at the free-throw line to down the Wildcats (13-17, 4-13), who shot 35 percent and were ice-cold to start both halves.
Marshall had 13 of his 18 points in the first half.
Alex Marcotullio led Northwestern, which lost its seventh straight game, with a career-high 22 points, including six 3-pointers. Fellow senior Reggie Hearn had 11 points, five rebounds and four assists.
What went right: The Nittany Lions made a few big runs, taking advantage of Northwestern's sluggishness out of the gate, and weathered some big Wildcat runs. Borovnjak was strong in the paint and gave Penn State the third scorer it desperately needed. The Lions, hitting the deck early and often as always, came up with 10 steals and forced 15 turnovers and, after being out-rebounded by the Wildcats in a loss in State College earlier this season, owned a 15-rebound advantage on the glass. Penn State made good decisions with the ball down the stretch.
What went wrong: Penn State had 16 turnovers, nine in the first 14 minutes of the game, and was frighteningly inconsistent at the free-throw line, connecting on just 60 percent of its attempts and missing the front end of four one-and-ones. In the first half, the Nittany Lions allowed an early 12-point lead to slip away by getting into foul trouble and did a poor job of locating Marcotullio, the only Wildcat with a hot hand, behind the arc in the second half.
Statworthy: Penn State's reserves took a total of four shots and did not record a point Thursday. … Ross Travis had eight points, all at the free-throw line, and nine rebounds. … The Wildcats were 17-of-19 from the line. … Penn State improved to 11-9 in Evanston. … The Nittany Lions are 7-3 in games when at least three players reach double figures this season.
Summary: The Nittany Lions looked like the sloppy team that was blown out at Minnesota nearly as often as they looked like the efficient version that knocked off Michigan, but they took advantage of a Northwestern defense that offered only occasional resistance and held on down the stretch to secure that elusive first Big Ten road win. This team has made individual and collective improvement during the last few weeks of the season, though it is still a long way from where Patrick Chambers needs it to be if Penn State is going to pull off future road wins in the conference.
Up next: Penn State closes out its regular season at noon Sunday in the Bryce Jordan Center against Wisconsin.
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