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A Win is a Win: Penn State Basketball Advances to B1G Semifinals

Their second overtime win against Northwestern advances the Nittany Lions to their first Big Ten Semifinal appearance since 2018.

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Penn State Basketball
Mar 10, 2023; Chicago, IL, USA; The Penn State Nittany Lions bench celebrate a three point basket against the Northwestern Wildcats during overtime at United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State basketball advanced to the Big Ten Tournament Semifinals by upsetting the No. 2 seed Northwestern 67-65 in overtime Friday night. With their second overtime win against the Wildcats in nine days, the Nittany Lions will play in the Big Ten Tournament Semifinals for the first time since 2018.

Many bracketologists had Penn State in the NCAA Tournament following Thursday’s massive win against Illinois. But Micah Shrewsberry and company are not leaving anything to chance and continue to rack up impressive wins. The Lions have won seven of eight games since suffering a four-game losing streak in early February.

Sicko Mode

Like the last time these teams played, Penn State struggled to hold on to the basketball early. The Lions had four turnovers in the opening minutes to go along with an abysmal 2-11 start from the field. Thankfully for Penn State, Northwestern was just as bad, shooting 2-13 to start. Going into the midway point of the first half, the 6-6 score looked reminiscent of something we might see in October.

There may be some deeper analysis to glean from the first 20 minutes of play. But there’s also a saying about putting lipstick on a pig. The first half was borderline unwatchable.

Penn State and Northwestern shot a combined 18-57 from the field in the first half. But relatively speaking, both teams went on a scoring spree in the final two minutes. The Lions claimed the lead after an 8-0 run, but Northwestern answered with five quick points to take a 26-25 lead into halftime.

While shooting woes made a one-score deficit feel like a mountain, the Nittany Lions’ lack of ball security was the differentiating factor in the half. Penn State entered the game ranked third in the nation with an average of 8.8 turnovers per game. Through 20 minutes of play, the Lions had already turned the ball over seven times, which led to nine Northwestern points on the other end.

Penn State Unable to Pull Away in the Second Half

Penn State basketball jumped out to an early six-point lead to start the second half, which for this game could have been classified as “running away with it.” Despite shooting 21% to start the half, the Wildcats had nine points off five Penn State turnovers, allowing them to stay in the game. In total, Northwestern had 23 points off turnovers on the night. Using a 9-0 run, Northwestern reclaimed the lead, 47-45, with 6:15 to play.

But then, Seth Lundy silenced the pro-Northwestern crowd with a three-pointer essentially shot from downtown Chicago. Both sides exchanged baskets over the subsequent sequences, but Penn State held a 52-49 lead going into the final media timeout.

Penn State had several opportunities to extend the lead but could not. Northwestern hit a three to take a 54-52 lead, but a Jalen Pickett layup quickly tied the game. With 1:33 remaining, Pickett went to the line with the chance to give Penn State the lead. He missed both shots.

The Wildcats quickly moved the ball down to Robbie Beran, who gave Northwestern the 56-54 lead with 1:08 to play.

With 37 seconds remaining, Seth Lundy drilled a clutch jumper to tie the game.

Northwestern’s next possession came up empty, and Penn State chose not to use their final timeout and instead played out the last possession. Andrew Funk had a clean look from deep but missed, sending the game to overtime.

Lundy Boosts Lions in Overtime

Jalen Pickett hit a three to open the extra period, followed by a point from the foul line to extend the Lions’ lead to four.

The lead didn’t last long, as Northwestern tied the game for the eighth time of the night with 2:03 to play.

After Kayne Clary went 1-2 from the foul line, Northwestern took a 62-61 lead with 1:17 remaining in overtime. But, like in regulation, Seth Lundy came down the floor and hit a massive shot. This time, it was from deep, and Penn State took a two-point lead with 45 seconds left.

Northwestern’s Boo Buie missed a wide-open three-pointer, giving Pickett a chance to make it a two-possession game with 25 seconds remaining. Penn State had missed six of their last eight free throws, but Pickett hit both to make it 66-62.

Much like the entire night, nothing came easy for Penn State. Boo Buie was at the foul line down by three with four seconds remaining. Buie made the first foul shot before intentionally missing the second. The Lions couldn’t get their hands on the rebound, giving the Wildcats one final chance for the win. For what felt like a lifetime, it looked like Chase Audige’s shot would fall. Ultimately the shot rimmed out, and Penn State escaped with the 67-65 win.

On a night when he could not establish any offensive presence, Jalen Pickett showed up in overtime. Pickett had six of his 15 points over the final five minutes of play.

But the hero of the night was Seth Lundy. His stat line won’t go down in the record books, scoring 16 points on 5-12 shooting with seven rebounds. However, Lundy hit two clutch shots – one to tie the game in regulation and one to give the Lions the win in overtime.

And just like that, Penn State’s drive for a Big Ten Tournament title continues.

Penn State Basketball: It’s Time to Believe

Despite Friday’s ugly performance, Penn State basketball is hitting its stride at the right time.

Less than a month ago, the Nittany Lions were in the middle of a two-week-long losing streak. Many outside of the locker room didn’t give the Lions a realistic chance to make March Madness. And at the time, they were right. Penn State was playing lousy basketball.

What the Lions have done since then is nothing short of spectacular. Penn State has won all but one game, including an upset of then No. 21 Marylandtwo wins against Illinois, and two wins against Northwestern. The Lions now have seven Quad 1 victories, including two double-digit wins against Quad 1 opponents.

In all reality, Penn State’s play over the last month was likely enough to punch their ticket to the dance. The win on Thursday night essentially assured it.

But now, it’s about something more. Penn State has a realistic shot to content for – if not win – the Big Ten Tournament title. The Nittany Lions will play the winner of Friday’s late-night quarterfinal between No.3 seed Indiana and No. 6 seed Maryland – two teams the Lions have already defeated this season.

Yes, a rematch against top-seeded Purdue would likely loom in the finals if Penn State were to win. But the Boilermakers have experienced their struggles down the stretch, and Penn State is playing its best basketball of the season.

The Lions may historically give us hope, only to rip it away. But something about this latest stretch feels different. Penn State has gutted out more gritty wins in the last month than at any other point that I can remember in my lifetime.

Folks, it’s time to start believing in Penn State basketball.



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Matt is a Co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.

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