Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins dominated inside to lead Penn State to a 78-63 win over Northwestern at the Bryce Jordan Center on Friday night.
Stevens scored a career-high 30 points to lead the Nittany Lions (12-5, 2-2 Big Ten), while Watkins added 18 points and 17 rebounds.
“They were just too much for us,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “They beat us up in the paint on drives and post-ups. It was just too much for us to overcome tonight.”
Stevens and Watkins set the tone in the first half, combining to go 11-for-12 from the field. Stevens had 16 points and Watkins had 11 in the first 20 minutes. Stevens attacked the rim throughout the night, finishing drives, throwing down dunks and making plays in the post for the Nittany Lions.
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“That’s the bread and butter of my game and something I really work hard on,” Stevens said. “I wanted to show it tonight, and my teammates really put me in the best spots for me to operate.”
Penn State outscored the Wildcats 48-18 on points in the paint, and that approach was a focus for the Nittany Lions going into Friday night.
“I just talked to the team in general after Maryland about not settling,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “We did make a bunch of 3s at Maryland. We’ve made a bunch of 3s this year, which is great, but we can’t settle. We need to attack some closeouts, we need to get in the paint, we need to make plays.”
Player of the game
Penn State forward Lamar Stevens: It was a career night for Stevens, who shot 14-for-19 from the field and 1-for-3 from 3-point range. He also grabbed five rebounds. Stevens went into Friday night averaging 14.1 points, good for second on the team.
Whenever Northwestern (10-7, 1-3) threatened in the second half, Penn State quickly responded to maintain control on its way to a convincing win.
After the Wildcats pulled within three points with more than 15 minutes left, the Nittany Lions used a 9-0 run to rebuild a comfortable lead. After Northwestern sliced Penn State’s advantage to six points with more than 10 minutes remaining, the Nittany Lions didn’t waste any time as they regained their double-digit lead.
Penn State then led by double digits for the final seven minutes.
The Nittany Lions shot 70.8 percent from the field (17-for-24) in the first half to take a 41-34 lead into the break. They did most of their damage inside, outscoring Northwestern 28-10 on points in the paint in the first 20 minutes.
McIntosh returns for Northwestern
After missing his team’s loss to Nebraska on Tuesday with a knee injury, Northwestern guard Bryant McIntosh returned to the court against the Nittany Lions on Friday night.
McIntosh finished with a team-high 18 points against Penn State.
McIntosh paced Northwestern with 10 points in the first half and banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to pull the Wildcats within 41-34.
Penn State at Indiana, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday: The Nittany Lions face Indiana on the road before home games against Nebraska (Jan. 12) and Minnesota (Jan. 15). Indiana (8-7) takes on Minnesota on Saturday.