Penn State blowing a 19-point lead against Rutgers at home Sunday didn’t kill its NCAA Tournament hopes. But the team now likely has to win its last two regular season games to get an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. Penn State plays at Northwestern Wednesday night and at home against Maryland to end the regular season Sunday.
On this the first day of March, here are five things to know before Penn State takes on Northwestern.
The Rutgers game is over. Done. History. In the past. Penn State’s only had two full days to get over it. That’s a short time, but it’s long enough. Blowing a 19-point second-half lead can crush a team’s confidence in any circumstance, especially when it happens at home in a big game before the season’s biggest crowd.
Northwestern is too good for Penn State to win this game without being at its best. Penn State can’t be at its best if it’s still getting over the Rutgers loss.
AH-HOOOOOO, WHERE WAS SETH LUNDY?
Penn State’s second-best player had probably the worst game of his college career Sunday night. Seth Lundy took 16 shots and made one, going 0-for-11 from 3-point land. Lundy was the target of much criticism by Penn State fans on Twitter, some of which was downright verbally abusive and wouldn’t have been OK had he gone 0-for-100. Nonetheless, the harsh reality is that Penn State probably beats Rutgers if Lundy is anywhere close to his usual self. Lundy averages 14.3 points per game, is one of the Big 10’s best defenders and leads the conference in 3-point field goal percentage. Penn State will need Seth Lundy to be Seth Lundy to beat Northwestern, or at least be better than 1-16.
*Note: This section’s title was a homage to Warren Zevon and his 1978 hit, “Werewolves of London.”
PICKETT’S CHARGE, FUNKY MUSIC
Lundy probably got the most heat for Penn State’s collapse, with the possible exception of coach Micah Shrewsberry. But he wasn’t the only player that didn’t deliver. Penn State’s best player and All-America candidate, Jalen Pickett, didn’t take a shot in the second half. Andrew Funk, who is second behind Lundy in the Big Ten in 3-point percentage and first in made 3-pointers, went 1-for-7 from the field with every shot coming from beyond the arc. There’s no reason to believe that Pickett’s second-half performance against Rutgers was anything but an outlier. He’s been the man all year for Penn State. Funk’s case is more concerning. The fifth-year transfer from Bucknell has been streaky all season, and in the past two games, he’s scored a total of three points. There’s nothing streaky about that; that’s just unproductive. To beat a good team in a rowdy environment, Penn State will likely need its best players performing, which they didn’t have against Rutgers.
Although Northwestern’s been struggling recently, losing its past two games at Illinois and Maryland, this has been a magical season in Evanston thus far. Northwestern is 20-9 overall and in a three-way tie for second in the Big Ten with an 11-7 conference record. Northwestern finished last season with a losing record and is a lock for the NCAA Tournament this year, which is why Chris Collins is likely the frontrunner for Big Ten Coach of the Year. It’s senior night in Evanston, and two of the five seniors, Boo Buie (17.2 PPG) and Chase Audige (14.6), are Northwestern’s top scorers. Buie is sixth in the Big Ten in scoring and is also the brother of Penn State legend and current Northwestern assistant coach Talor Battle. Northwestern struggles to score collectively, placing just 11th in the Big Ten in scoring offense. But Northwestern is much better defensively, ranking fifth in the conference in scoring defense. The teams will be playing before a sold-out Welsh-Ryan Arena.
HOW TO WATCH
Penn State is a 3.5-point underdog, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Tipoff is set for 9 p.m. ET on the Big Ten Network. Here’s more information on how to watch and listen to the game.
- TV ANNOUNCERS: Cory Provus (pxp), Stephen Bardo (color)
- RADIO: Penn State Sports Network
- RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Steve Jones (pxp), Dick Jerardi (color)
- SIRIUSXM: Ch. 389 | App Ch. 979