Penn State couldn’t figure out Northwestern’s 2-3 zone and turned in its worst offensive performance of the season Saturday.
The Nittany Lions shot a season-worst 27.3 percent and scored a season-low point total in their 60-39 loss to the Wildcats in Big Ten play at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Penn State’s D.J. Newbill, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, was a nonfactor and finished with a season-low three points. Newbill went 1 for 6 from the field and didn’t finish in double figures scoring for the first time this season. Brandon Taylor, the team’s second-leading scorer, also went scoreless on 0 for 7 shooting.
Geno Thorpe was the lone Penn State player in double figures with 13 points. Thorpe went 5 for 17 from the field.
Penn State also finished with 14 turnovers in its fourth straight loss.
“It’s funny. In our man defense, we didn’t force any turnovers,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “In our zone, we’ve been more aggressive. Guys have active hands. We’re getting deflections.”
Northwestern used a balanced effort and shot 54.2 percent in the second half to pull away for the blowout victory. Vic Law scored a team-high 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Tre Demps added 16 points. Alex Olah finished with 10 points, and Bryant McIntosh recorded eight assists for the Wildcats, who have won three straight.
Penn State (15-13, 3-12 Big Ten) started 4 for 5 from beyond the arc.
Shep Garner and Thorpe each hits 3s at the top of the key. Thorpe was left open for another 3, and Garner swished his second from deep off a kickout from Newbill to make it 12-3 Penn State with 15:23 left in the first half.
But the Nittany Lions struggled against Northwestern’s zone for the final 35 minutes and finished 8 for 27 from beyond the arc.
“If we’re going to rely on three-point shooting, it’s going to be a long day for us,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said.
After Garner hit a 3 to tie the game at 15, the Nittany Lions missed their final five attempts from beyond the arc before the break. They went scoreless for more than four minutes as Northwestern took a seven-point lead.
Thorpe ended the scoreless stretch with a layup — one of Penn State’s two field goals in the final eight minutes of the half.
Northwestern (13-14, 4-10) took a 28-20 lead into halftime.
Newbill was 0 for 4 from the field, with three attempts from beyond the arc, in the opening 20 minutes. He attempted just two shots and played 12 minutes in the second half. He didn’t score until he hit a 3-pointer with 1:25 left.
“They packed it in and shaded D.J. all game,” Chambers said. “They did a really good job on him, probably the best of the year.”
By the time Newbill hit his 3, Northwestern was well on its way to the victory.
The Wildcats went up by 20 on the previous possession after a 3-pointer by Demps.
Northwestern dominated the second half, building a 14-point lead in the first five minutes and responding quickly when Penn State cut the deficit to 38-34.
But the Nittany Lions would score just five points in the final 11 minutes.
About two minutes later, Northwestern led by 10 and Penn State never threatened again. Newbill’s 3-pointer was the team’s lone field goal in the final eight minutes.
Notes: Penn State returns to action Saturday when it hosts Iowa at 6 p.m. ... Newbill went scoreless against Minnesota last January when he played just 14 minutes and fouled out. Newbill logged 30 minutes and pulled down nine rebounds Saturday. ... Penn State’s Jordan Dickerson recorded three blocks for his 15th game with multiple blocks this season. ... Penn State’s previous season-low point total came in a 50-46 loss to Rutgers. The Nittany Lions shot 28.8 percent in that loss.