Senior Night blues — Penn State stays ahead
The odds were always against Reggie Hearn from even playing in a Big Ten game. His sophomore year, fans would chant his name just hoping for him to come into the game. No one imagined then he would be able to score. No imagined then all he would give to the program.
Hearn’s career might always be dotted with those “What Ifs?” What if Hearn had been given the opportunity early on in his career? Would he have been the scrappy guard that could help Northwestern get over the top with some of those John Shurna-Michael Thompson teams.
On a more micro level: What if Hearn had been available at the end of Northwestern’s 66-59 loss to Penn State on Thursday. Would he have been able to will the Wildcats in any way and finally get them over the hump? What if he had not fouled out?
Above are statistics known as the Four Factors and are regarded as indicative contributors to wins and losses. Please see the end of this post for an explanation.
Hearn was emotional as he walked off the Welsh-Ryan Arena floor with his teammates still fighting. He was leaving the game much earlier than he or anyone else could have anticipated. He had given it his all, using every foul and every moment he could. His team was not able to back him and Alex Marcotullio up to send this senior class off with a victory.
Hearn scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds. Alex Marcotullio had a career night with 22 points on 6-for-9 shooting from beyond the arc. They did all they could. It was not enough.
Northwestern gave up the first 12 points of the game, stormed back to tie the game at 30 and then gave up the next 11 points to dig the team a hole it was struggling to climb out of the entire evening. Northwestern tried with Dave Sobolewski, Hearn and Marcotullio making plays to keep the team within striking distance.
It seemed though every time the Wildcats would climb within four the Nittany Lions would find a way to pull back away. Much like the four years Hearn and Marcotullio spent at Northwestern, the team came so close only to fall short.
The stakes were much lower however against Penn State though. All that was left it seemed was pride and the memories of the final game at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Northwestern again continued to struggle offensively. Turnovers plagued the beginning of the game and the Wildcats finished with 15 in the game including five from Marcotullio and four from Dave Sobolewski. NU also shot 34.7 percent from the floor, relying on free throws to stay in the game much of the way.
Many players NU needed to step up on the offensive end simply could not buy a shot. Sobolewski was 2 for 10 from the floor for eight points. Alex Olah scored only five points on 2-for-7 shooting, missing a few shots close to the basket. Tre Demps was 2 for 7 as well. Northwestern could not get key shots to fall and that is the basic motto for this team — Make Shots.
Northwestern slowly got better breaking down the 2-3 zone Penn State used most of the night, but the team could not get enough momentum going to overtake Penn State.
The Nittany Lions shot 48.9 percent and 15 of 25 free throws, getting 18 points apiece from Jermaine Marshall and D.J. Newbill. The Nittany Lions had eight offensive rebounds and did a great job breaking down the Wildcats’ defense.
Penn State had he ability to stymie Northwestern when it needed to. The Nittany Lions were flying around and showing a lot of heart for a team sitting at 1-15 in the Big Ten.
Again, it seemed the Wildcats were game to give a good college try at getting this win. The execution and ability to score simply were not there.
Like Hearn and Marcotullio, NU seemed to give the game everything it had. And like most of this season, it ended in bitter disappointment. It felt like those seniors deserved much better.
Offensive Rating measures points scored per 100 possessions.
Effective field goal percentage measures field goal percentage taking into account the added value of a 3-point shot.
Offensive rebound percentage measures the percentage of offensive rebounds over total rebounds.
Turnover percentage estimates what percentage of a team’s possessions end in a turnover.
Free throw rate measures the rate of free throw attempts over field goal attempts.