Northwestern Travels to Penn State Seeking Second Big Ten Road Win

Alan RubensteinAnalyst IIIFebruary 12, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20:  Drew Crawford #1 of the Northwestern Wildcats drives against Akeem Bennett #24 of the St. Francis Terriers during the Madison Square Garden Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden on December 20, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

Northwestern travels to Penn State Sunday in the first of two matchups this season. The Wildcats will host the Nittany Lions on February 24th. Northwestern arrives in Happy Valley losing four of their last five. After early conference wins over Michigan State, Illinois and Wisconsin, Penn State has lost three in a row.

After trailing by 15 in the second half at Michigan Wednesday, NU closed to within one late. However Michigan finished the game on an 8-0 run to capture a 75-66 win. Michael Thompson led the surge with 17. Drew Crawford and JerShon Cobb continue to play well as they had 16 and 14 respectively.

John Shurna struggled for the second game in a row after missing Northwestern’s near upset of Ohio State two weeks ago. Shurna only has 12 points in the last two games while only attempting 10 shots. For Northwestern to be successful going forward they are going to need their star at full strength.

The point guard will be a decisive factor on Sunday. Penn State's Talor Battle has played for USA Basketball at the World University Games and has emerged as a likely All Big Ten First Team performer in 2011. Battle has three 30 point games this season and ranks third in the Big Ten in scoring in conference games.

Battle and Thompson are 1-2 in the conference in three-point field goals made per game. Thompson ranks eighth in the Big Ten in scoring, seventh in assists and third in steals.

Penn State sits one game ahead of Northwestern in the standings. They are tied for sixth with Minnesota and Michigan. Northwestern has a good chance to move up after the next four games. After Penn State, they host Iowa on Thursday, then travel to Indiana before the return trip from the Nittany Lions.

Penn State represents a challenge as another team that will play more deliberately then NU has the past two seasons. They average 64.0 PPG compared to NU’s 74.7.The Lions are stronger on defense, while Northwestern runs a more efficient offense. Rebounding and defense continue to plague the Wildcats. Michigan shot 51.7 percent and out rebounded Northwestern by seven.

Northwestern and Penn State tips off at 2:30pm CST on the Big Ten Network with Tom Hart and Tim Doyle providing the Play-by-Play and analysis.