UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- On a night where Penn State's guards deferred to their bigs, Nittany Lions forwards Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins were too much for Northwestern to handle.
Stevens set a Bryce Jordan Center record with 14 field goals and scored 16 of his career-high 30 points in the first half and Watkins had 18 points and 17 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season as Penn State beat Northwestern 78-63 on Friday night.
"They beat us up in the paint," Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. "They beat us on drives and post-ups and it was just too much for us to overcome tonight."
Both played with a visible edge -- Watkins backed his marks violently into the paint and Stevens screamed in exaltation after numerous dunks. It was a needed release after a somber ride home from Maryland where the Nittany Lions lost a game they thought they should've won Tuesday.
"Sometimes, a loss like that, where you're winning for 36 minutes and you come up short, it can fracture a young team," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said.
Tony Carr added 12 points for the Nittany Lions (12-5, 2-2 Big Ten), who led the Wildcats (10-7, 1-3) for all but 61 seconds.
Bryant McIntosh returned to the Northwestern lineup from a one-game injury absence and led the Wildcats with 18 points.
Penn State took control with its best shooting half in more than a decade. The Nittany Lions made 71 percent (17 of 24) of their field goals in the first half and led 41-34 at halftime. Penn State last made at least 70 percent of its shots against VMI in 2006.
The Nittany Lions used a 9-0 run that spanned four-plus minutes midway through the second to keep the game out of reach. In that time, the Wildcats went 0 for 7 from the field and wouldn't come closer than six points.
Jamari Wheeler has become a valuable commodity off the bench and Chambers is plenty comfortable deploying the speedy freshman in nearly any situation.
Wheeler's speed has helped fuel Penn State's transition game and his defense left few clean shots for McIntosh's sidekick Scottie Lindsey, who dropped 31 points on Penn State on its home court last season.
Lindsey was just 3 for 17 from the field on Friday.
"Jamari's fearless," Stevens said. "I think he's really held his own as a freshman."
Carr struggled scoring the ball for much of the game. He went just 3 for 13 from the field, but Penn State's top shooter made other contributions.
He finished with five assists and four rebounds and made 5-for-7 free throws. He also helped hold the Wildcats in check defensively.
"He was very proud to show me he had blood running down his leg and blood running down his elbow," Chambers said. "I said, `What do you think I'm going to say?' He said, `Winning hurts.' That's right. That's the way it's got to be from here on out."
Northwestern: The Wildcats have been inconsistent for most of the season, ranking in the bottom half of the Big Ten in scoring offense and defense as well as field-goal percentage. Getting McIntosh back should help.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions lost a game they probably should've won against Maryland and played with chips on their shoulders to start this one.
Northwestern hosts Minnesota (13-3, 2-1) on Wednesday.
Penn State travels to Indiana (8-7, 1-2) on Tuesday.