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Northwestern drops final home game of season to Penn State 66-59

Northwestern guard Reggie Hearn left battles Penn State guard Jermaine Marshall for rebound during first half an NCAA college basketball

Northwestern guard Reggie Hearn, left, battles Penn State guard Jermaine Marshall for a rebound during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, March 7, 2013, in Evanston, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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Updated: April 9, 2013 12:03PM

Northwestern’s final game at Welsh-Ryan Arena this season was supposed to be about the seniors, but as Penn State pulled away for a milestone win, it became more about the future of NU basketball.

What has become an annual debate was the elephant in the room after the Wildcats watched Penn State snap a 19-game road losing with a 66-59 victory Thursday night.

It was the last home game for seniors Jared Swopshire, Reggie Hearn and Alex Marcotullio. Was it also the last time Bill Carmody coaches the Wildcats in Evanston?

‘‘I’ve been thinking about it,’’ Carmody said of his future. ‘‘It’s on my mind. I’ll talk with [athletic director] Jim [Phillips] at the end of the Big Ten tournament, and we’ll go from there.’’

Phillips won’t address Carmody’s future until after the season. The Wildcats (13-17, 4-13 Big Ten) will close their regular season at Michigan State on Sunday before the Big Ten tournament begins at the United Center next week.

Marcotullio made a career-high six three-pointers and scored a career-high 22 points in his final home game.

‘‘In terms of preparing us to win and putting us in situations to win, he has done an unbelievable job,’’ Marcotullio said of Carmody. ‘‘We’re the players on the court, and we have to make plays, but Coach Carmody and the staff have put us in the right spots.’’

NU trailed by 11 in the second half before Marcotullio buried the first of his four second-half three-pointers. His baseline bomb with 6:14 left gave the Wildcats a short-lived 54-53 lead. Northwestern scored five points the rest of the way.

Hearn had 11 points, five rebounds and four assists before fouling out to a standing ovation with 3:07 left. The former walk-on-turned starter received another ovation during the pregame ‘‘senior night’’ ceremony.

Jermaine Marshall and D.J. Newbill each scored 18 for Penn State (10-19, 2-15).

‘‘The system Coach has in place allowed us to compete a lot of this year in the Big Ten with what would appear to be bigger, more athletic teams,’’ Hearn said. ‘‘Even with JerShon [Cobb] out at the beginning of the year, before Swopshire went out, we were sitting at 4-6 with a chance to win at Iowa. The way [Carmody] prepared us to win and adjusted to all the injuries we had, he did a good job.’’

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