Penn State “having fun” on its way to the Big Ten Tournament Semi-Finals

Written by Andre Monroe

CHICAGO – Win or lose, the Nittany Lions have preached “having fun” in the Big Ten Tournament. After back-to-back wins over favorites Illinois and Northwestern, it’s safe to say Penn State is having it.

“When we’re not playing our best, we still find a way to win; that’s what toughness does,” Micah Shrewsberry said to the Big Ten camera in his celebratory walk to the locker room.

Northwestern G Boo Buie missed a crucial free throw with five seconds left on the clock. Chase Audige grabbed the offensive rebound and put up a heave from three that nearly went down.

The Penn State bench stormed the court, Jalen Pickett sprinted, throwing his hands in the hair, and Kebba Nije took a deep exhale while being embraced by teammates.

Shrewsberry was accompanied by a towel throughout the game, having to wipe sweat from his head multiple times.

The Nittany Lions felt the intensity of the moment. Instead of wavering, they turned pressure into poise.

The tournament schedule has resulted in a quick turnaround for Penn State, playing two games in just 24 hours.

“We’re going to get in with Justin, our trainer,” Pickett said. “We’re going to do some stretching tonight, film work, and just treatment all day today, probably in the morning after breakfast have another stretching session. We’re going to let the adrenaline kick in and get us going.”

Penn State pulled off the victory despite a poor shooting night. Penn State shot just 36% from the field in the first half. Jalen Pickett, its leading scorer, was scoreless at the half. Northwestern had done an exceptional job trapping off-ball screen and limiting drives from Pickett.

However, Northwestern didn’t do any better. The Wildcats shot an abysmal 28% from the field in the first half but still led, 26-25, at the break. Boo Buie’s shot creation allowed him to get good looks, leading all scorers with eight going into halftime.

Pickett began to facilitate in the post to start the second half, creating opportunities for Andrew Funk and Seth Lundy.

Penn State got off to a quick 6-0 run with consecutive and-ones by Seth Lundy and Kebba Nije. Meanwhile, Northwestern, who were 2-10 on layups at the half, continued to miss point-blank opportunities at the basket. Northwestern began the second half going 0-4 from the field but was able to capitalize on Penn State’s many turnovers.

Penn State’s ball movement in the second half allowed for more drives to the basket and, thus, more opportunities at the foul line. The Nittany Lions struggled to take advantage, going 9-10 from the free-throw line in the second half.

However, Penn State has continued to deliver late. Forty seconds remaining, down one, with the shot clock winding down, Seth Lundy hit an iso three-pointer with a defender in his face to put the Nittany Lions up by two. After a Northwestern missed shot on the other end, it became a free-throw game.

Despite his team struggling from the line, Jalen Pickett knocked down two free throws that sealed the game. Time and time again, Penn State has proved its poise when it matters.

Penn State will have a quick turnaround, matching up against the Indiana Hoosiers in the semi-finals of the Big Ten Tournament. The game will tipoff on CBS, 25 minutes after Purdue vs. Ohio State at 1:00 PM.

Andre Monroe covers Penn State Basketball for Insider Institute. Follow him on Twitter @amonroe_ and Contact him at

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