Penn State improved to 9-4 overall and 1-1 in the conference with its first Big Ten road victory since nipping Iowa, 78-73, in Iowa City March 1, 2001. Nobody on this team -- either player or coach -- had ever been a part of a Big Ten road victory (in their current position). State was coming off a 104-69 humiliation in its Big Ten opener at Ohio State Jan. 5.
This is very important for our team, third-year coach Ed DeChellis said. It's been four or five years, which is very disappointing. Our guys needed this.
The Wildcats dip to 9-5 and 2-1 in the Big Ten.
Sophomore forward Geary Claxton led Penn State with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and combined with freshman forward Jamelle Cornley (eight points, nine rebounds) to control the boards, especially in the second half. The duo came through with 19 rebounds, 10 of them on the offensive end. Northwestern as a team had 25 boards.
The Lions trailed 34-31 at the break after overcoming a 30-19 deficit, and opened the second with a 10-2 run to take a 41-36 lead. From there, State controlled the pace the rest of the way, holding the Big Ten's leading scorer -- Wildcat forward Vedran Vukusic -- to four shots in the final 20 minutes. DeChellis used a zone defense to hold NU to 29 second-half points.
Northwestern rallied to take a 43-41 lead, but the Lions didn't panic. State countered with a 3-pointer from Ben Luber and never trailed again. NU managed a 58-58 tie on Tim Doyle's layup with 3:34 left, but Penn State tightened up defensively at that point and the Wildcats did not score again until Craig Moore hit a desperation 3-pointer with six seconds to go.
Penn State gets Iowa in the Big Ten home opener at the Jordan Center Saturday at noon. It is the first of three straight home games for the Lions.
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