Poor shooting and a nasty flu bug were not enough to slow down the Penn State Nittany Lions men’s basketball team as they rallied to beat Northwestern 61-57 in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
Flu season came early to Happy Valley as Penn State senior Danny Morrissey missed the entire game, David Jackson only played six minutes, and Jamelle Cornley sprinted to the locker room during the first half because of the virus. In fact, Jackson was announced as a starter by the PA, during opening introductions. PSU coach Kurt Kanaskie commented after the game it was the first time he could remember a starter being announced and then looking around to see him not there. Jackson had to fled to the locker room.
Penn State struggled from the floor. They finished the game shooting a season-low 31 percent from the field.
Talor Battle played the hero role for the Nittany Lions. Battle scored a season high 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. He scored 19 of the 26 points during the second half.
"He didn't want to lose," Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. "He hit big shot, after big shot, after big shot."
“We had a lot of fun,” Battle told the Centre Daily Times after the game. “We were laughing and smiling and that’s when you play your best basketball when you’re loose and you’re really enjoying it. But you have to make shots to have fun. If you miss, it isn’t much fun.”
Stanley Pringle scored 14 points for the Lions. He hit two free throws with 3.9 seconds left to seal the win. Sophomore Jeff Brooks added nine points and hit two free throws with 28.7 seconds left to give Penn State a 58-54 lead.
Freshman John Shurna led Northwestern with 16 points. Junior Kevin Coble finished with 11 points for the Wildcats. Senior Craig Moore added 11 points for Northwestern, giving him 999 for his career.
• 5,525 attended the New Year’s Eve game.
• Penn State opened conference play for the third straight year with a victory over Northwestern.
• Penn State recorded a 46-24 rebounding edge.
• Northwestern had a 30-10 advantage in points in the paint and had 16 fast-break points to none for the Nittany Lions.
• The Nittany Lions’ second Big Ten game should be tougher than their first. They visit defending champion Wisconsin on Saturday. The Badgers defeated No. 23 Michigan 73-61 on Wednesday.
• The Wildcats return to action at 6 p.m. Saturday when they host Michigan State at Welsh-Ryan Arena.