The result was a 79-60 blowout against a Wildcat outfit that was thought to be on the proverbial NCAA Tournament bubble as recently as two weeks ago. It marked the Nittany Lions' first home win since topping American Dec. 21.
The upshot is that Penn State, though still mired in last place in the Big Ten at 11-17 overall and 3-13 in the league, has now won three of four and sports the look of a dangerous opponent to anyone it may face in the upcoming conference tournament.
It would have been nice to be playing this well all season, said guard Talor Battle, who paced a well-balanced PSU attack with 16 points, six rebounds and six assists. All the pressure is off us and we're just playing basketball. Hopefully we can keep it rolling.
The Lions were on fire from the start, making seven of their first eight shots (four different players scored) in bolting out to a 17-9 lead. Northwestern (18-11, 7-10) managed to hang around for a bit thanks to effective long-range shooting (making seven if its first 11 3-pointers), but PSU kept the pressure on.
The Wildcats tried a 1-3-1 defense late in the first half and the Lions picked it apart with good ball movement and sharp cuts. Everyone was scoring. Even backup guard Cammeron Woodyard got in on the act, matching a career high with nine points in the half, his first points since Jan. 16.
PSU led 49-35 at the break and opened the second half with a 20-9 run to blow it wide open. So frustrated were the NU players that center Luka Mirkovic grabbed a driving Battle by his jersey, earning an intentional foul.
Battle made both free throws for a 69-44 lead with 8:13 remaining and the Lions cruised to their second straight win over Northwestern. It was also PSU's eighth victory in the last nine games of the series.
Maybe it's just confidence, DeChellis said. Maybe [the PSU players think] we're supposed to beat them.
Confidence has never been a problem for Battle. But the entire team was oozing with it Sunday. Guard Chris Babb showed no hesitation on his shots, drilling 4 of 5 triples. Forward Jeff Brooks played his most physical game of the season, with 11 points and seven rebounds. Center Andrew Jones was tough in the paint with eight points and seven boards. And backup guard Tim Frazier made all four shots he attempted for nine points.
Defensively, the Lions had a season-high seven blocks and allowed only one Wildcat -- guard Michael Thompson (21 points) -- to reach double figures. Mirkovic was 0 of 6 from the floor and leading scorer John Shurna was 2 of 11.
The credit goes to the players, DeChellis said. They played very well today, offensively and defensively.
Added Brooks: I wish we would have been playing this well back in December and January. But it seems like we're jelling together. It's looking good. For us to be playing well right now is a positive.
• Lion forward David Jackson, who's grandfather passed away last week, started but was limited to five points in 19 minutes. DeChellis was worried about the junior's wind after he missed a few days of practice.