Four Nittany Lions reached double figures as PSU started and closed with a flurry in beating Northwestern in Evanston Thursday, 66-52. With three assists in the outing, Battle became the first player in Big Ten history to reach 2,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists in his career.
More importantly for the Lions, they improved to 15-12 overall and 8-8 in the Big Ten heading into the final two games of the regular season.
I thought everybody contributed, PSU coach Ed DeChellis said.
With only one road win on the season coming in, this was a must-get for the Nittany Lions if they hoped to stay alive for the NCAA Tournament. And they played that way early, bolting out to an 18-2 lead. All five starters scored as PSU was rolling.
It was a disaster.
The Wildcats closed the half on a 21-8 run, trailing by just three (26-23) at the break.
While the PSU starters were a collective 12 of 18 from the floor in the half, the bench was 0 of 3 with no rebounds and three turnovers.
They went to a 1-3-1, it slowed us down, DeChellis said. We had to sub to get other guys in the game (because) we were tired. We didn't execute well.
The key halftime adjustment for Penn State appeared to be abandoning the bench. Guard Cammeron Woodyard was the only other Lion to play in the second half, and he was a late defensive sub when Jackson got into foul trouble.
The strategy of going with a very short bench worked.
Northwestern climbed within 34-32 on a Michael Thompson 3-pointer with 12:23 left and then PSU's four senior starters took over. Andrew Jones scored off a pass from Jeff Brooks. Then David Jackson came out of a scrum with a dunk. Then Battle got loose for a layup.
Then Battle got assist number 500 with a pass to Brooks for a 3-pointer.
Up 43-32 with 10:10 showing, the Lions were not seriously threatened the rest of the way. After committing nine first-half turnovers, they finished the night with 12, as sophomore point guard Tim Frazier delivered another strong floor game (10 points, 10 assists).
Brooks led Penn State with 20 points and seven rebounds, as Battle (13), Jackson (12) and Frazier all hit doubles, as well. Jones finished with nine points.
Thompson led Northwestern with 22 points.
The Lions are off until facing No. 3 Ohio State at the Jordan Center Tuesday.
See the box score: