Penn State Thumps Northwestern

The Nittany Lions finally gave themselves some breathing room by rolling past the Wildcats in Evanston. It ranked among the most lopsided Big Ten road wins in program history.

Penn State's cardiac kids finally alleviated their collective stress level against Northwestern in Evanston Thursday. The Nittany Lions, who had been involved in six Big Ten games decided on the final possession and whose five conference victories had been by a total of 19 points, blasted the Wildcats, 59-32.

It marked the first time Penn State won a Big Ten game by 20 points or more since a 65-45 home victory over Purdue in 2012. And it was the third-largest margin of victory ever for PSU in a Big Ten road game, trailing only a 33-point win at Northwestern in 2000 and a 30-point victory over the Wildcats in 1995.

Penn State improved to 6-11 in the Big Ten and is now clear of a third-straight last-place finish in the conference. As importantly, the Lions evened their season mark at 15-15 heading into Sunday's finale at Minnesota.

A bid to the NIT is dependent on PSU emerging from next week's Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis with a .500 or better record. If the league tourney were to start today, the Lions would be the 10th seed.

Penn State blew open this game early, using a 14-1 run in the first half to take a 24-10 lead. Eight different Lions scored in the opening period, led by Tim Frazier's seven points. They led 32-15 at the break.

PSU began the second half with an 18-9 run to make it 50-23 and the game was a laugher the rest of the way.

D.J. Newbill finished with a dozen points to lead Penn State, and went over 1,000 points in his two seasons with the Lions. But Frazier was the real key, as he had 11 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Wildcat star Drew Crawford had a tough game on his Senior Night, with six points on 2-of-9 shooting. NU's 32 points were the fewest scored by a Big Ten team this season and its 10 field goals a conference low for the year.

The most eye-popping number from this game, though: PSU's first score of the second half -- a John Johnson 3-pointer -- proved to be the game-winner.

Penn State squares off with the Golden Gophers at 5:15 p.m. Sunday in a game that will be carried by BTN. There is plenty on the line, as Minnesota is fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Lions, meanwhile, are trying to win four Big Ten road games in a season for the first time and head into the conference tourney with a .500 or better final regular-season record assured.

Meanwhile, Northwestern wraps up its pre-Big Ten tourney action at Purdue Sunday. The Wildcats and Boilermakers both sport 5-12 conference marks, meaning the loser will end the season in last place in the league.

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