When a team of senior leaders comes together, it can accomplish great things.
Penn State sure learned that lesson Saturday in a 66-62 upset win of No. 19 Michigan State at the Bryce Jordan Center fueled by huge performances from four key upperclassmen.
Forward Jeff Brooks led the way for the Nittany Lions (9-6, 2-2) with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Center Andrew Jones broke out for a season high 16 points to go with four rebounds. Guard Talor Battle notched 13 points, six rebounds and six assists to go along with a key jumper for Penn State in the final minute and forward David Jackson finished with 11 points and seven rebounds to pull Penn State back to ..500 in the conference.
It was a huge day for a core of seniors many had hoped would lead Penn State to great things this season. While it still might, things have been somewhat disappointing up until today and Lions fans had every right to be skeptical of this bunch's ability. The group showed fans what it can do on Saturday, though, and more importantly, it may have shown itself.
Penn State remains smack in the middle of some brutal schedule, as the Lions don't have much rest before they face No. 25 Illinois at home on Tuesday followed by trips to Columbus and West Lafayette to face No, 2 Ohio State and No. 10 Purdue, but a win against the Spartans (10-5, 2-1) is sure to do wonders for confidence.
Good/Bad/Ugly after the jump.
- The Penn State fan base responded to an embarrassing loss against Maine a few weeks ago by writing this team and its coaching staff off. The seniors responded by getting a tough road win at Indiana and a huge upset against Michigan State at home on Saturday. Hats off to them. They're certainly not playing for most fans at this point as it seems like most people are more concerned with where Kermit Buggs will be coaching next year than the basketball team. They're playing for each other and they're refusing to let this season die with a whimper like last year did. Whether their efforts will end in an NCAA Tournament berth, who knows? These guys aren't going quietly, though.
- The Lions out rebounded the Spartans 40-36 and 15-13 on the offensive glass. Hard to overstate the importance of that in this upset. Michigan State came in with much better rebounding numbers than Penn State as well as a distinct height advantage but the Lions made a concerted effort to control the boards and they did.
Jermaine Marshall had another nice game off the bench, contributing eight points on the afternoon. He ran into some foul trouble, but he played aggressively and made things happen offensively at a position that had been pretty stagnant offensively for much of the season with Tim Frazier starting at the two spot.
- Penn State really contained Michigan State forwards Delvon Roe and Draymond Green well, limiting them to 12 combined points off an average of about 19.5.
- The Lions held Michigan State to 31% from the perimeter on Saturday. That number is a little deceiving, as Sparty missed a few wide open jumpers from deep, but after the way Penn State has been torched out there recently, the coaching staff will surely take it.
- With only six turnovers, the Lions did a good job of not giving the Spartans extra possessions.
- Kind of a shame this game had to be played while students were on break. The fans that showed up were lively as the game wound down, but no doubt the students would have brought an added edge for Penn State. They'll get their chance to wear an opponent down soon, though, as the Illini will be in town on Tuesday.
- The Lions' shooting averages on the afternoon were 40% from the field and 29% from the perimeter. It was enough on Saturday, both those aren't numbers you can consistently count on to win.
- Jermaine Marshall and Jeff Brooks found themselves in foul trouble at various stages of the game. You don't like to see that when you're a team that lacks depth as Penn State does.
- For once it wasn't Penn State stinking up the joint from the foul line. The Spartans were a horrid 10-20 from the stripe on Saturday.
Some video for you, rather than boring text. Excuse the amateur camera work. It will get better, I promise.