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What We Learned: Penn State Nittany Lions 65, Northwestern Wildcats 57

What can we take from Penn State’s victory over Northwestern?

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Penn State vs Northwestern Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Thursday evening Big Ten Tournament session tipped off with the No. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions battling the No. 10 Northwestern Wildcats.

After 20 minutes things were all knotted up at 30. Penn State would jump out to a seven-point lead early in the second half, but Northwestern battled back to take a two-point lead with 4:33 remaining. From there the Nittany Lions went on a 13-0 run and sealed things up for the 75-67 victory. With tonight’s victory, Penn State will look for a 3-0 record against Ohio State tomorrow.

Let’s take a look at what we can learn from this evening’s game.

What We Learned

Tony Carr Continues To Carry Penn State

Carr backed up his First Team All-Big Ten selection with another magnificent game tonight. The sophomore guard scored 25 points on 6-10 shooting from three-point range. He hit a huge three with Penn State down two with under five minutes to play. That put the Nittany Lions up for good, and eventually into the next round against Ohio State.

It was Carr’s fourth game in his last five with at least 20 points. Perhaps equally important Carr used his long 6-foot-3 frame to grab six rebounds. With Mike Watkins sidelined, it was imperative that Penn State not lose its rebounding edge. The effort of Carr (and Josh Reaves) alleviated some of those concerns.

Carr continues to play as one of the Big Ten’s best guards. With his 29.5 points per game average against Ohio State this season, it will be interesting to see if he can continue to propel Penn State through this tournament.

Northwestern Needed More Efficiency From Its Backcourt

The Wildcats’ scoring issues crept up again at one of the most inopportune times again tonight.

With the Wildcats up 54-52 with 4:33 left, Northwestern would go nearly four minutes without another basket and allow Penn State a 13-0 spurt to victory.

Poor backcourt efficiency can be blamed for some of the scoring problems with Northwestern tonight. The three-guard lineup of Bryant McIntosh, Scottie Lindsey and, Anthony Gaines combined for 25 points on 9-33 (27 percent) shooting. Eight of Northwestern’s nine turnovers came from their guard play.

Compare that with Penn State. Their guard play combined for 42 percent shooting and 52 points. Northwestern just couldn’t keep up with the production of Penn State’s guard play and needed to play through Dererk Pardon more, who had a nice game of 14 points and eight rebounds on 6-11 shooting.

Penn State Still Needs Help To Get To The NCAA Tournament

Even with the victory tonight, Penn State still needs more wins in this tournament to go dancing. The Nittany Lions currently sit at 20-12, but they only appear in one bracket out of 70 on BracketMatrix.

A victory over Ohio State will help in that pursuit, but even then, they probably need to reach the final on Sunday to earn a place in the NCAA Tournament. Keeping a close eye on Nebraska will also be of interest to the Nittany Lions.

Overall

Tony Carr was brilliant tonight as he kept Penn State going in their pursuit of an NCAA Tournament birth. They still need a lot of help, but it remains still a possibility.

For Northwestern it was a disappointing end to a disappointing season. Inefficient guard play and long scoring droughts, hallmarks of this season, struck again and ended their Big Ten Tournament hopes.

Expect another good one tomorrow between Penn State and Ohio State.