It looked like Penn State was destined for another embarassing 37 point loss in the Breslin center like last year. After jumping out to a 9-2 lead in the early minutes the shooters went cold and Michigan State went on a run. Late in the first half the Spartans led 29-16 by rebounding, forcing turnovers, and hitting their shots. Penn State was on the ropes, and then Talor Battle went off.
He quickly drained two three pointers to cut the lead to seven. Then a three and a dunk by Cornley cut the lead to six. A layup by Andrew Jones accompanied with a free throw to complete a three point play cut it to five. Then Battle banked home a ridiculous three point shot at the top of the key from about six feet behind the line. He hit Cameroon Woodyard for an open three and then hit another three himself and to the shock of the nearly 15,000 Spartan fans in attendance Penn State held a one point lead at the half.
The second half started out rolling just like the first half did. Penn State hit their first nine field goals of the half while Michigan State couldn't find the gas pedal on the struggle bus. And with under seven minutes to go Penn State led by 12 points seemingly having their first ever win at Michigan State in hand.
But then it was Penn State's turn to ride the struggle bus. With four minutes to go Izzo instructed his team to foul Penn State on every possession and put them on the free throw line. The strategy almost worked to perfection. Danny Morrissey missed the front end of a one-and-one. Then Andrew Jones missed his front end chance. Then Jamelle Cornley missed one, but he got his own rebound and was instantly fouled again. This time he made the first shot and missed the second. Battle then had two shots on the line and missed them both. Meanwhile the lead shrank until with just 0:12 to go Penn State's lead was only one point.
Then it was Andrew Jones' turn to be the hero. With a chance to tie it on the line, Kalin Lucas missed the free throw. Jones pulled down the rebound and was fouled. He made one shot to extend the lead to two points. On the other end Lucas missed a jumper, and once again Jones got the rebound and was fouled. This time he made both free throws to give Penn State a four point lead with under two seconds to go and Penn State escaped the Breslin Center with a crucial win.
Talor Battle doesn't belong mixed in with the good. I should have another category called "The Great". When the team was down in the first half he showed why many consider him to be the MVP of the Big Ten this year. He got the hot hand and started taking some ridiculous three point shots. It quieted down the MSU crowd and let Penn State settle down after the flurry Michigan State had thrown at them to take a 13 point lead.
Andrew Jones was the unsung hero of the game scoring 12 points and pulling down 9 rebounds hitting all four of his field goal attempts. And none of them were more critical than the two rebounds and three points in the final seconds with the game on the line. Penn State desperately needed someone to stop the bleeding and Jones was the guy.
Jamelle Cornley was his usual solid self scoring 16 points to go with 4 rebounds.
Stanley Pringle fouled out due to some really ticky tack fouls. It really effected what Ed wanted to do with substitutions and forced us to sit one of our top scorers for ten minutes of the game.
Talor Battle looked really gassed at the end of the game. He played all 40 minutes and scored the last of his 29 points with 13 minutes to go. It was obvious to me his legs were gone and he had nothing left. He showed really poor technique in the late free throws by locking his knees and fading away from the shot. Ed has to find a way to get him some rest. Admittedly it was difficult yesterday with Pringle in foul trouble the entire game and eventually fouling out.
Ideally, Ed should have pulled him with seven minutes to go and a 12 point lead. Rest him up for a couple minutes and let him recharge for those final four or five minutes. Pringle only had three fouls at that point and could have played the point with Morrissey at the two guard.
Foul shots. Every game Penn State chokes at the free throw line when the game is on the line. For some guys it's horrendous technique (Cornley and Jones). For some guys maybe it's just that they're coming off the bench cold (Morrissey and Jackson). Some guys are just gassed at the end of the game. (Battle and maybe Cornley). For whatever reason, we keep saying it's going to cost them some day. And somehow, they keep winning.
Official Ed Hightower was a disgrace. Early in the game he called a technical foul on Jamelle Cornley after he made a layup. The replay appeared that Cornley just made the basket and turned to head back up the court without saying a word. He must have glared at Hightower or something as if to say he should have called a foul. It was a petty technical foul and obviously a carryover from the technical foul Hightower called on Cornley back in the Iowa game a week ago. Then a few minutes later he called a bogus lane violation on Cornley allowing MSU a chance to retake a missed foul shot. I suspect Hightower's actions were a little retaliation for public statements Cornley made after the Iowa game.
"I think that it was a mistake on my behalf," Cornley smirked after the game. "I didn't say anything derogatory. I thought it should have went the other way and (official Ed) Hightower said, 'Just watch it.'
"I said, Yes sir, I'm going to make sure that I continue to do my job and you do yours...
Officials don't like being shown up, and it will usually get you a technical foul in the game. But good officials put it behind them when the game is over, and the next game is a new game. Hightower let his emotions from the Iowa game carry over into this game, and for that the Big Ten should seriously consider some kind of reprimand.
On Cornley's part he has to watch himself from here out in any game being officiated by Hightower. This guy obviously has a point to prove and he's not going to take any more crap off of Cornley. This could be huge for a guy like Jamelle that can be a very emotional player when he has to control those emotions.