Battle Milestone Comes in Big Win

The Nittany Lion guard passed the 2,000-point mark for his career as the Lions rolled past Northwestern. The lopsided win snapped a three-game losing streak.

Talor Battle passed an impressive individual milestone at the Jordan Center Sunday, becoming the second Penn State basketball player to log more than 2,000 career points.

Afterward, however, he was more concerned with the strong team effort that led to a critical 65-41 blowout victory over Northwestern.

Paced by Battle's efficient 19-point effort, four Nittany Lions reached double figures as PSU (13-11, 6-7 Big Ten) snapped a three-game losing streak and kept its NCAA Tournament hopes on life support.

“It's great hitting the 2,000 mark,” said Battle, who joins 1950s star Jesse Arnelle as the only Nittany Lion to accomplish the feat. “But what made it more special is the fact that we played so well and won convincingly -- going away. A lot of guys stepped up and played very well.”

It was only the third time this season four Penn State players scored in double figures. Not surprisingly, they were three of the Lions' best games of the years -- a home win over then-ranked Michigan State, a three-point loss at then-No. 1 Ohio State and now this.

“I thought it was a good effort overall by everybody tonight,” PSU coach Ed DeChellis said.

It helped that the Nittany Lions were facing an opponent they've owned in recent years. Penn State has now captured 9 of 10 in the series and the Wildcats (14-10, 4-9) have not won in Happy Valley since 2002.

They showed a bit of fight in this one, even as Battle scored five early points, including a 3-pointer with 13:13 left in the first half that gave him 2,001 for his career. He raised his hand as students cheered the accomplishment, but wasn't quite sure he had passed 2,000 until the PA man told the crowd at the next dead ball.

Battle received a standing ovation.

“That reassured me when he announced it,” he said.

The Lions were up 10-9 at the time and traded punches with Northwestern over the next three minutes before Battle hit a runner that put PSU in front 16-13 at the midway point of the half.

The Wildcats hit one bucket the rest of the period and trailed 24-15 at the break. They were 0 of 9 from the arc.

“We've been able to survive this year because we've shot the ball pretty well and been able to make nine or 10 3-pointers per game,” NU coach Bill Carmody said. “Tonight we couldn't make a shot. They had something to do with that. … We're basically a perimeter team and we couldn't knock 'em down today.”

“Our focus was to try to take away the three and make them beat you with twos,” DeChellis said. “I don't think they make enough twos to beat you.”

DeChellis admitted his offense was “stagnant” in the first half. But everything came together as the Lions opened the second half with a 9-1 spurt that featured Battle's supporting cast.

Forward Jeff Brooks, still wearing a brace to protect an injured right shoulder, hit a jumper. Then fellow forward David Jackson scored on a back-door cut. Then guard Tim Frazier scored on a drive. Then Jackson hit a triple.

Brooks would go on to finish with 14, Frazier a dozen and Jackson 11. The Lions led 33-16 before Battle threw the knockout combination with a drive and back-to-back long 3-pointers for a 41-18 lead.

The Wildcats, who finished a season-worst 2 of 21 from the 3-point line (9.5 percent), saw only guard Jershon Cobb reach doubles with 10 points. Leading scorer John Shurna was held to seven and, after scoring five points in the first three minutes, wing man Drew Crawford did not score again the rest of the game.

It added up to Penn State's most lopsided win over a Big Ten opponent since crushing the Wildcats 83-57 in 2006.

More importantly, it snapped a streak in which the Lions had been playing some of their worst ball of the year. With only five games left before the Big Ten tournament, it truly was a now-or-never proposition for the freshly minted 2,000-point man and his crew.

“For us to win convincingly like this is big,” Battle said. “I'm sure it gave a lot of people confidence. I hope we carry this momentum into our next game.”

SHORT SHOTS

• Battle, who played the game with a sprained left ankle that prevented him from practicing Saturday, also became Penn State's all-time leader in career starts with 121. DeRon Hayes previously held the mark.

• Battle is only the 22nd player in Big Ten history to reach 2,000 points and the second in the last decade (the other was Wisconsin's Alando Tucker).

• Battle now has 2,015 career points. Arnelle finished with 2,138. That means Battle needs 124 points to pass Arnelle.

• The Lions outrebounded Northwestern 33-21.

• NU's 15 points in the first half and 41 in the game were both season-lows for PSU opponents.

• Jackson finally took his game inside. He entered Sunday's action with more 3-point field goals and 3-point attempts than 2-point field goals and 2-point attempts in Big Ten play. Against NU, he was 4 of 6 on deuces and 1 of 3 on treys.

• It was Alumni Day for the Lions. Of the 30 or so former PSU players and managers introduced at halftime, 1990s star Pete Lisicky got the biggest round of applause.

• Next up for the PSU is a Thursday home tilt with No. 25 Minnesota. The action tips at 7 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.


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