Evanston, Ill. — Penn State has struggled making 3-pointers all season.
The Nittany Lions turned their long-range shooting woes around Saturday night. And they defeated Northwestern at its own typically strong 3-point shooting game.
Brandon Taylor scored 19 points and Donovon Jack had 14 as Penn State beat Northwestern 71-62.
Payton Banks added 10 for the Nittany Lions, who shot 9 for 21 from 3-point range.
“We made threes, which we haven’t done, and they missed threes,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “Sometimes in this league, this bizarre league that we’re in, that’s what determines the outcome.”
Tre Demps had 22 points and Bryant McIntosh and Dererk Pardon added 12 apiece for Northwestern. The Wildcats shot 39 percent from the field and saw their postseason hopes take a hit with a loss to a team in the bottom half of the Big Ten standings. Northwestern (15-4, 3-3) has never reached the NCAA tournament.
The Nittany Lions (11-8, 2-4) had lost four of five and were coming off losses to No. 4 Michigan State and No. 24 Purdue. Penn State entered the game shooting 29.6 percent on 3-pointers, last in the conference.
“The 3s we hit were very big,” Taylor said. “That’s something we’ve been working on, getting in the gym and working on shooting.”
Meanwhile, the Wildcats shot 3 of 26 from beyond the arc against the zone.
“The adjustment of playing bigger helped us,” Chambers said. “Defensively, it makes us longer so we’re able to be there and disrupt and make great 3-point shooters uncomfortable.”
Northwestern had won two straight and 12 of 14. The Wildcats entered the game making 9.1 3-pointers per game on average and are 8-0 when making 10 or more shots from beyond the arc.
“We weren’t very aggressive,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “When you continue to play like that your defense disintegrates.”
Jack completed a 3-point play with 15:23 left for a 38-27 Penn State lead. Shep Garner and Taylor each nailed a 3 to extend the lead to 48-31.
Demps then hit Northwestern’s first 3-pointer with 10:21 remaining to snap the Wildcats’ 0-for-17 skid from beyond the arc. But Jordan Dickerson answered on the other end with a dunk to keep Penn State ahead 50-34. Jack hit a layup to give the Nittany Lions their largest lead at 18.
Northwestern went on an 8-0 run to pull within nine before Penn State made 14 of 18 free throws.
McIntosh was held under his team-leading 16.1 points per game. He shot 6-of-15 from the field. Demps shot 9 of 20.
“We’ve shot a lot more poorly at home,” Collins said. “I don’t know if the guys are overanxious or putting a little bit of extra pressure on themselves. I feel like we shoot more freely on the road.”