State College, Pa. — Penn State coach Patrick Chambers has watched his teams cough up enough leads late to know this squad is different.
The No. 13 Nittany Lions are hanging on and closing games out.
Lamar Stevens scored 23 points to lead Penn State over Northwestern 77-61 on Saturday.
Myles Dread scored 16 and Jamari Wheeler and Mike Watkins added 11 apiece for the Nittany Lions, who led for all but 6:29 to win their eighth straight.
They’ve arrived at 20 wins sooner than any other season in program history.
“We’ve been talking about moments since the beginning of the season and this is another moment for us,” Chambers said. “You can celebrate after the season. Right now, we’re trying to do something special. Something Penn State’s never done before.”
Boo Buie and Pete Nance had 12 points, Pat Spencer scored 11 and Miller Kopp had 10 for the Wildcats (6-18, 1-13 Big Ten), who lost their ninth in a row.
The Nittany Lions (20-5, 10-4) led 42-28 at halftime and by as many as 18 midway through the second half before the Wildcats clawed back.
Aided by a 17-6 run midway through the second half, Northwestern cut Penn State’s lead to seven with 5:16 left. But Dread drained a 3-pointer to help put the game out of reach and the Nittany Lions finished on a 10-4 run.
“Give credit to their guys who were able to hit some good shots when we put some pressure on them,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “We had some opportunities in the paint that we couldn’t finish.”
The Wildcats had a good start. Kopp got the them started with a 3-pointer that quickly turned into an 11-9 lead for Northwestern. It didn’t last long.
Penn State extended its lead with back-to-back 3-pointers from Dread and Wheeler that sparked a 22-6 run, including a 10-0 stretch, that put Penn State up 35-19.
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Ohio State 68, Purdue 52: The Buckeyes kept their NCAA hopes alive, winning their their fifth in the past six. Ohio State (17-8, 7-7) pulled to .500 in the Big Ten for the first time since December, while Purdue (14-12, 7-8) lost its second in a row.
All eight Buckeyes to play hit the scoreboard, led by Kyle Young with 16 and Kaleb Wesson with 13 and a season-high three steals. Luther Muhammad added 11.
Ohio State beat Purdue for just the second time in their last six meetings.
Evan Boudreaux contributed 17 for the Boilermakers, while Jahaad Proctor added 15.
Ohio State led from the opening tip but left plenty of opportunity for Purdue to stay in the game, committing nine first-half turnovers and going scoreless for more than five minutes in the first half.
But Purdue failed to capitalize, shooting just 35.2% from the field and 20% from beyond the arc.
The Boilermakers, which force more turnovers than any other team in the Big Ten, nudged Ohio State into nine in the first half. The Buckeyes ended with 16 turnovers, but forced Purdue into 16, as well.
(At) Rutgers 72, No. 22 Illinois 57: Ron Harper Jr. hit all five of his 3-pointers and scored 27 points, and Rutgers remained unbeaten at home, sending the Illini to their fourth straight loss.
Gio Baker and Akwasi Yeboah added 12 points apiece and Myles Johnson had 11 rebounds as the Scarlet Knights (18-8, 9-6 Big Ten) improved to a nation’s best 17-0 at home.
Indiana was the last Big Ten program to start 17-0 at home, doing it 2015-16.
Illinois (16-9, 8-6) played without leading scorer Ayo Dosunmu (15.8 points). The sophomore guard hurt his left knee at the final buzzer in a loss against Michigan State on Tuesday night. There was no structural damage, and he made the road trip, watching the game in sweats.
Alan Griffin had 14 points to lead the Illini. Kofi Cockburn added 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Andres Feliz added 10 points.
Feliz hit a 3-pointer to get Illinois within 43-42 early in the second half, but Johnson scored underneath and Harper nailed a 3-pointer to ignite an 11-point run that gave the Scarlet Knights at 54-42 lead.
Illinois, which shot 31% from the field, never got closer than seven points again. It trailed by 20 late.
Harper was the story for Rutgers in the opening 20 minutes. He scored 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting in helping the Scarlet Knights take a 34-32 lead.
Wisconsin 81, (at) Nebraska 64: Brad Davison couldn’t hit a shot in practice the last two days, but that changed Saturday when he scored 30 points on 8-of-11 3-point shooting to lead Wisconsin to an 81-64 win and send Nebraska to its school-record tying 10th straight loss 81-64 on Saturday.
“I’ve shot the ball really well outside of practice and games the last couple of weeks but some something about the games and practices that it gets me – that’s a joke,” Davison said. “My teammates found me in really good spots. We did a great job moving the ball. They were trying to double get the ball out of Nate (Reuvers) and Micah (Potter’s) hands inside. So I got really good looks and take advantage of them.”
Two of Davison’s 3-pointers came as Wisconsin took control of the game with a 21-2 early second-half run.
Trailing 43-41, the Badgers (15-10, 8-6 Big Ten) made five 3-pointers in a 4½-minute stretch that saw them go up 57-45 on D’Mtrick Trice’s 3 with 13:43 remaining and take a 62-45 lead on Trice’s 3 just over a minute later.
Nebraska (7-18, 2-12) stopped the damage with a Thor Thorbjarnsen 3-pointer that ended a nearly five minute scoring drought. The Huskers cut the lead to 65-55 on Kevin Cross’s free throw with 7:46 left.
But a Wisconsin 8-0 spurt – a pair of Davison 3-pointers around a Micah Potter layup – put the Badgers up 18, 73-65, and the game out of reach with 5:16 left.
Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said Wisconsin’s second half dominance came on the defensive end of the floor, just as it did three weeks ago when the Badgers scored the first 10 points in the second half to take control of a close game against Nebraska in Madison.
“Ironically, the score was exactly the same,39-38 at halftime, so there was a lot of reminders of that,” Gard said. “In the second half, we were more in tune defensively. … We made some steps forward in the second half and were able to get them under control a little bit and get some offense from our defense.”
Behind Davison, Wisconsin, which averages eight 3-pointers a game, finished with 15 on 31 attempts.
The Wisconsin 3-pointers were one of the keys to the game, said Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg, who also noted the resemblance to the January loss to the Badgers.
“The second half, the urgency wasn’t there,” Hoiberg said. “A lot of that was due to our inability to finish at the rim. We were 1 for 11 at the rim between the second and third media timeouts. What that does is it really hurts your floor balance and transition that that’s where a lot of those threes were made.”