Well, that was fun. Based on the ‘Cats traditional horrific play in the Bryce Jordan Center, you felt as though Penn State’s ice cold point blank shooting might have been due to the teams playing a trick on fans. It wasn’t. David Sobolewski came out with his normal vigor and was able to lead the ‘Cats charge against the Tim Frazier-less Nittany Lions (8-7,0-3) who simply couldn’t buy a basket all night long. Sobo led the ‘Cats with 18 points and really managed the tempo of the game brilliantly. However, it was senior Jared Swopshire who opened the game with a vengeance scoring nine of NU’s first 10 points and helped set the aggressive attack-the-basket tone that was an unfamiliar sight as of late.
The ‘Cats used a Sobo spark as part of a huge 25-6 first half run that really enabled them to almost go prevent in the second half as a pair of Sobo threes combined with a dash of Hearn and some 3-point daggers from Kale Abrahamson all mixed together for a 33-18 lead for Northwestern (10-6,1-2). I guess you can give NU some credit as they held the home team to a miserable 31% FG shooting clip, but really, a lot of blame has to go to Penn State as they were in constant position in the low post, but couldn’t convert on bunny after bunny. PSU also went 0-fer from three in the first half. Give credit to NU for playing with passion with the lead. The ‘Cats withstood every mini run the Nittany Lions mounted and they really played one of their more composed games of the season. It was also a great mix of penetration and low post scoring with timely three point shooting as NU finished 9-of-22 behind the arc. Kale Abrahamson seemed to have the most loud three pointers as he continues to get more aggressive on offense (3-5 3 pt shooting, 10 pts). Sobo led the way with 18 pts on a 50% shooting night (7/14, 3/6 from 3 pt land) and Jared really played fantastic tonight finishing with 17 points, 7 reb and 3 assists. Reggie Hearn battled his way to 14 points with half of them coming from the charity stripe. The ‘Cats still got outrebounded (35 to 31), but the disparity in field goal percentage more than made up for it on this night.
The game was much more lopsided than the score even indicates as NU was living with a 20+ point lead for much of the second half. The ‘Cats season opening gauntlent of top ten Michigan and Minnesota surely made you feel that wins would be few and far between in conference play with such a shorthanded team this season. Now, NU hosts a feisty 0-3 Iowa team on Sunday before resuming a murderer’s row schedule that includes games at Illinois, home vs Indiana and Minnesota. You’d like to think returning home with a nice bounce in the step off of this win could potentially carry over to Sunday’s game at Iowa.
I have to admit, this was a pleasant surprise. I’m not totally shocked that we won, as Penn State is just not a good team, however I am shocked at the ease with which we won, never really getting threatened throughout. Congratulations to the ‘Cats on their much needed first conference victory of the season. Let’s hope there are more nights like this to come.