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    Wildcats Drop Big Ten Opener to Penn State, 79-68

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Michael Thompson finished with 17 points and 10 assists.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Michael Thompson finished with 17 points and 10 assists.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    Jan. 2, 2008

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    EVANSTON, Ill. -- Michael Thompson led Northwestern with 17 points and a career-high 10 assists, but the Wildcats were unable to hold off Penn State in dropping their Big Ten season opener to the Nittany Lions 79-68 Wednesday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

    Jamelle Cornley had 22 points and 11 rebounds and Geary Claxton added 18 points and 11 rebounds to lead Penn State (9-4, 1-0).

    Stanley Pringle added 17 points for Penn State, which outscored Northwestern 45-33 in the second half.

    The loss spoiled the return of Kevin Coble, who missed the first nine games to be with his mom, Carlys, in Phoenix while she underwent treatment for cancer. Coble, a Big Ten All-Freshman selection last year after leading the Wildcats in scoring and rebounding, finished with 11 points.

    Jason Okrzesik was also in double figures for NU, contributing 14 points.

    With the game tied at 7-7 early on, Thompson scored six points during an 11-2 run to give the Wildcats their largest lead of the game at 18-9. However, Craig Moore, Northwestern's leading scorer, picked up his second foul shortly thereafter the Nittany Lions responded with a 14-4 spurt to go up 23-22.

    Stanley Pringle hit his third 3-pointer of the opening half with the clock winding down to put PSU up by two, but Okrzesik answered right back, beating the buzzer with a trey of his own to give NU a 35-34 lead going into the half.

    After being held scoreless in the first half, Talor Battle sparked a 20-4 Penn State run to open the second half.

    Battle scored eight during the spurt, including a pair of 3-pointers, and Claxton hit a pair of free throws with 12:34 left to cap the stretch and give the Nittany Lions a 54-39 lead.

    Northwestern scored five straight to close within 10 midway through the half and appeared primed to cut into the deficit further on a drive to the hoop by Jeff Ryan. The sophomore made a slashing lay-up but was called for an offensive foul on a questionable call.

    Penn State scored six straight points after the decision went its way and the Wildcats got no closer than nine the rest of the way.

    Northwestern returns to action at 11 a.m. Central time Sunday when it travels to Ohio State.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report