Penn State will look to win its third-straight home game on Saturday night when it hosts Northwestern for a 9 p.m. tipoff at the Bryce Jordan Center. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.
The Nittany Lions (12-16, 4-11 Big Ten) defeated Nebraska and Iowa in their last two home games, though they fell by a 65-55 margin at Wisconsin last Sunday. This game will mark the first of the final three regular season games Penn State will play in the next eight days before heading to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Tournament.
The Wildcats (16-11, 6-9 Big Ten), meanwhile, are fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives and must win to keep any hope of earning at at-large bid alive. They have lost three of their past four games, and have not won on the road since a 74-70 triumph at Illinois on Feb. 5.
Check out some things to watch for in the game below.
When Penn State has the ball...
-The Lions turned the ball over 15 times when these two teams last met on New Year's Day in Evanston and the Wildcats went on to win, 68-56. Penn State will need to take better care of the ball this time around if it hopes to hold court at home.
-Penn State stayed in the game the first time around by pounding Northwestern on the offensive glass, 15-3. If it can repeat at least some of that success back at home, the second chances should pay dividends.
-Three players finished in double-figure scoring for the Lions in the first game. Similar balance will bode well in this game, though the secondary scoring options will probably have to contribute more than the combined 15 points they added to the total in Evanston.
When Northwestern has the ball...
-Dave Sobolewski, a 9.3 points per game scorer, put up 20 on Penn State in the first matchup. Obviously, the Lions are going to have to do a better job on him defensively to hold him closer to that average. If they do, it will put more pressure on leading scorers John Shurna and Drew Crawford who had 17 and 21 points, respectively, last time.
-There is no real reason to look beyond the Wildcats' 55.0 percent shooting from the field in the first game to figure out why they won. Northwestern had a good shooting game and was able to pretty much cruise. It's incumbent upon Penn State to force some tougher shots this time and hope things turn around from their 34 percent shooting effort the first time at the other end.
These two teams are heading in different directions. Penn State has won two of its last three and even showed some flashes of brilliance at the Kohl Center, one of the Big Ten's toughest road venues, last week. Northwestern, meanwhile, is scuffling. And though the Wildcats are probably a little more desperate knowing they need wins to stay alive for their first NCAA Tournament bid ever, the Lions want to continue to build some momentum for next season. Expect good offensive rebounding and better shooting to lead Penn State in this one. Pick: Penn State, 70-62.