The Wildcats (10-6, 1-2) used a 25-4 run over an 11-minute span to lead by as many as 17 points, 33-16, in the first half. Penn State didn't score a basket for nearly seven minutes during that span.
Northwestern shooters maintained their touch after the break, as the Wildcats made 5 of 10 from 3-point range in the second half. Freshman Kale Abrahamson matched his season-high with three 3s in the game.
Penn State (8-7, 0-3) struggled all night to find a rhythm offensively. The Nittany Lions, who were led by 20 points from guard D.J. Newbill, shot just 31.6 percent (18 of 57) from the floor and were just 3 of 15 beyond the arc.
Nittany Lions coach Patrick Chambers' frustration was evident as he knelt often at the end of the Penn State bench with his head hung low. The Lions went to a full-court press early in the second half but found little success in slowing down Northwestern.
Sobolewski finished a tightly contested layup on a fast break at the 14:07 mark to put Northwestern ahead by 21 points, 45-24. A pair of free throws by Jermaine Marshall cut the Wildcats' lead to 46-33 with 11:39 remaining, but Northwestern countered with a 10-0 run to keep Penn State at bay.
Northwestern relied on the long ball throughout the game, and it was a pair of deep 3-pointers that gave head coach Bill Carmody's squad momentum during that run. Redshirt freshman Tre Demps hit a 3 from the corner to start the stretch.
The Wildcats had four different players score in double-digits, as Reggie Hearn scored 14 and Abrahamson added 10. The crowd of 6,479 at the Bryce Jordan Center began filing out in the waning minutes.
It's about time for someone other than Duke and Kentucky to grab the top class. Could it be Shaka Smart and Texas in 2017?
Which teams have enjoyed the most NCAA tournament success since 2000? Kansas' recent run to the Elite Eight vaulted the Jayhawks up the list.
There's nowhere to go but up for the Eagles, who were winless in the ACC last season but return a slew of young players who gained valuable experience.