Exactly one day after jumping an astronomical nine spots in the AP poll, Penn State basketball took a road trip to the mid-west and promptly validated that shiny new No. 13 ranking. Don’t get too cozy with it though. A barrage of three pointers shot out the lights in Purdue’s Mackey Arena leading the Lions to an 88-76 victory, and with bottom feeder Northwestern on deck at home on Saturday, chances are this climb is getting ready to reach unchartered waters. Make that seven-in-a-row now for the red-hot Nittany Lions with no signs of slowing down.
What makes this win over the Boilermakers, who are as hard to beat on their home floor as anyone in the Big Ten, is that the Nittany Lions were able to manhandle them at times without the services of Myreon Jones. He missed his second straight game with flu symptoms. Equally impressive is that they were able to pull of the W with all-star forward Lamar Stevens (16 points, five assists, one rebound) being held in check most of the evening after having a career performance against Minnesota. Purdue was able to mount a desperate attempt at a comeback over the final few minutes to get as close as seven, but ultimately clutch free throws and that hard knock defense pulled through to secure the 12 point win for the Nittany Lions.
True freshman Seth Lundy came off the bench and silenced the home crowd by hitting a perfect six for six from behind the arc and finish with 18 points and four rebounds. Mike Watkins (19 points, 10 rebounds) and John Harrar, who posted a career high 13 points, imposed their will inside the paint, and Myles Dread continued with the hot hand starting in place of Jones as he added 12 points and five rebounds. The Nittany Lions outpaced Purdue in rebounds 31-30 and hit a season-high 53% from behind the three-point line. If that’s a sign of things to come, then teams all across the country better open their eyes and take notice!
A showdown with the high-flying No. 20 Illinois Illini looms ahead next Tuesday night in the second of two straight at home, but first Penn State must play what’s being billed as the classic trap game when Northwestern (6-16 overall 1-11 in conference) comes rolling into Happy Valley. Penn State is 19-5 overall and nestled all alone in second place behind a team they already beat, Maryland, with a 9-4 record in conference play. With seven games (four at home) left to go in the regular season slate, a double-bye in the Big Ten tournament is becoming more a reality with this win streak as Penn State keeps on climbing!