Michael Thompson led the way with 22 points, and Drew Crawford finished with 11 points, but the rest of the team struggled, which hurt the Wildcats. Junior forward John Shurna finished with ten points, but hit 2-10 from the field, and 1-6 from beyond the arc. In addition, freshman guard Jershon Cobb finished with three points on 1-7 from the field.
Penn State finished with five scorers in double-figures, led by senior forward Jeff Brooks, who finished with 20 points. Senior point guard Talor Battle finished with 13 points, but reaching an elite milestone in the win. Battle became the first player in Big Ten history to have 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, and 500 assists in his career.
But Penn State barely needed Battle on Thursday. The Nittany Lions started the game on an 18-2 run in the game's first 12 minutes, and the Wildcats were never able to overcome that deficit.
"Just like when we played at their place, we didn't come out ready to play," said Michael ‘Juice' Thompson.
Northwestern started the game using a 2-3 defense, which did nothing to slow down the Penn State offense. During a timeout, Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody switched his team to a 1-3-1 zone defense, which helped contain Penn State for the remainder of the half. After that, the Wildcats found their offensive rhythm.
Juice Thompson and John Shurna carried the Wildcats on a 10-0 run, cutting into the Penn State lead. Northwestern clawed their way back to within three points twice in the first half, but couldn't get it closer than that.
Northwestern struck first in the second half on a Drew Crawford layup, which cut the Penn State lead to one, but the Wildcats were never able to get closer than that. Near the midway point in the second half, the Nittany Lions went on a 14-2 run, which gave them full control of the game.
After Penn State's 18-2 run to start the game, Northwestern got within three points on six different occasions. However, the Wildcats were never able to tie the score.
"We got it close, we had some looks, but we didn't get it to the point where we could get it over the hump," said Bill Carmody after the loss.
But Thursday's game went the same way as the first matchup between these two teams, when they played in University Park. Penn State was able to contain the Wildcat offense, and gain early momentum, leading them to a win.
"We have some seniors and they came ready to play," said Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis. "I thought Northwestern would come out with a lot of Juice and energy, and we had to come ready to play."
Despite the loss, Juice Thompson played well in his second-to-last regular season game at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Thompson finished with 22 points, marking the 17th game with more than 15 points in the season.
In addition, Thompson reached a milestone of his own at the opening tipoff. The senior played in his 122nd game as a Wildcat, breaking the program's all-time record. This also happened to be Thompson's 122nd start for Northwestern.
Thompson was one of the lone bright spots for Northwestern, scoring 22 of the team's 52 points. While hope of an at-large bid appeared to be lost a while ago, Thompson has been giving his best effort.
"(Juice)has been playing great," said Carmody. "We talked ten days ago or two weeks ago and said it would be tough, but to play these games as tough as you can play."
The Wildcats look to rebound on Sunday, but that will be no easy task. NU travels to Madison to take on #12 Wisconsin at the Kohl Center. Tipoff is set for 5:00 p.m.
After the loss, Juice Thompson says it's best to move on and put this game in the past.
"This is a tough loss for us. Fortunately for us, we have a game Sunday. We come back tomorrow and practice."