Penn State Ends Skid

Balanced scoring effort the key as the Nittany Lions put it to Northwestern in Evanston. All five starters reached double figures for PSU.

Talor Battle finally got a little help from his friends.

And Penn State finally got its first win of the Big Ten season, cracking a 12-game losing streak in topping Northwestern 81-70 in Evanston Wednesday night.

For the first time in conference play and only the second time this season, five different Nittany Lions reached double figures in scoring as PSU improved to 9-16 overall and 1-12 in the conference while dealing a death blow to the Wildcats' hopes of making their first NCAA Tournament.

Ironically, Battle's scoring was not a key in this one. He entered the game as the Big Ten's leading scorer at 19.5 ppg and the Lions began (and finished) the night as the only team in a BCS conference with only one double-figure scorer on the season.

On this night, however, forward David Jackson (7 of 8 from the field for 20 points) and guard Chris Babb (4 of 8 on triples and 6 of 6 from the line for 20 points) led the Lions. Forward Jeff Brooks had a dozen points and struggling center Andrew Jones had 10. All reached doubles before Battle got there with a couple of free throws in garbage time.

Battle was struggling with a case of the flu. To make matters worse, Northwestern made a concerted effort to take him out of the game, all but daring the rest of the Lions to beat them.

Battle took it all in stride, attempting a season-low eight shots but coming through with six assists and seven rebounds. And for the first time in league play, all of his fellow starters stepped up.

Jackson was outstanding all game, especially when the Wildcats went to a 1-3-1. He kept finding cracks in the paint and made Northwestern pay. His conventional 3-point play with 3:13 left in the first half gave the Lions a 31-27 lead and they maintained control for the rest of the night.

State led 54-45 on a Brooks follow dunk with 12:45 remaining in the game. The Wildcats used a 9-2 run to draw within 56-54, but Babb made a pair of free throws and then Jones cleared a key rebound and made a couple of foul shots after being hacked to extend it to 60-54 with 7:19 left.

The Lions took care of business at the free throw line from there -- they made 20 of 23 on the night -- to win going away.

The contrast to Saturday's home loss to Michigan State was striking. In that game, Battle scored more than half of his team's points (30 of 54). Wednesday, he was the only starter who did not make at least half of his shots (he was 2 of 8). The Lions were also 7-of-12 from the stripe against the Spartans, highlighting their difficult not only in earning the right to shoot free throws, but also in making them.

The 81 points Wednesday were by far the most PSU has tallied against a Big Ten opponent this year (the Lions needed overtime to reach their previous high of 71 at Wisconsin).

In fact, it marked only the third time in head coach Ed DeChellis' seven seasons at the helm that his team has score 80 or more against a Big Ten foe and only the fourth time PSU has done it since 2002.

Penn State was also the first unranked team to beat Northwestern at home this season.

The Lions are back on the road again Saturday when they face Michigan in Ann Arbor. The game tips at 6 p.m.

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