The much-anticipated home opener to Big Ten play for Penn State started with some pizzazz. The Lions jumped on a lethargic Michigan State team early, quickly gaining a 10-3 lead. The entertaining half continued after each team traded runs, but the Lions had the momentum after exploding for 47 points and taking a 7-point lead (that should've been more like 10-15) into halftime.
But the team that went into the tunnel never came back out.
Michigan State imposed their will on a Penn State squad that did not seem ready to go a full forty minutes in the Big Ten. The Lions reverted to some ugly habits of old, going away from their motion offense and playing one-on-one ball against superior defenders. It was so easy to guard that PSU only scored 16 points in the 2nd half.
Tim Frazier struggled from the start and ended with one of his worst showings. The senior made several bad decisions on both ends of the floor. It was his first Big Ten game in two years, but time's a ticking in his senior year. He doesn't have an eternity to figure it out. Frazier finished with 7 points (3-12) and 5 assists, but PSU went without an assist in the 2nd half while turning it over 7 times (Frazier was credited with 4 for the game).
DJ Newbill was very efficient in the first half, but lost his legs as the game wore on. He finished with 17 points on 6-12 shooting. Donovon Jack had plenty of promising moments, but he found himself on the bench early in the second half with 3 fouls. Brandon Taylor chipped in 18 points and no fouls, but he couldn't involved in the second half. I didn't think Ross Travis was that bad tonight, but he only finished with 6 points and 7 rebounds. The Lions need more from him, especially when the bench struggles like they did tonight. Allen Roberts slump continued in a big way as the sixth man went 0-4 tonight.
Michigan State IS the #5 team in the country and they sure looked like it in the second half, but Penn State has plenty to figure out going forward if they want to compete in this league. They showed in the first half they could do it, but the second half implosion was in line with what was seen in the non-conference.
Four Factors Analysis
The end of game numbers point to Michigan State's large offensive rebounding advantage as the biggest difference in the game, but in a contest of two halves like this one, that's not entirely accurate. MSU's rebounding advantage absolutely was real in the second half (they grabbed 15 offensive boards to PSU's 8 defensive), but the Lions offense completely imploded and their effort on the boards was a consequence.
Player of the Game
I'm going Brandon Taylor, because I don't think it was his fault the guards stopped running the offense. He was fantastic in the first half (16 points), but didn't get many touches in the second. He finished with 18 points, 4 rebounds and 0 fouls. He certainly wasn't flawless, but not a bad start in his second Big Ten go-round, especially after slumping in December.
- Donovon Jack Is For Real - While it could be considered garbage time, Donovon Jack had a mini- block party during the second half with a couple of monster rejections. The young sophomore is still too weak (and his foul troubles are evidence of that), but his future continues to look brighter and brighter.
- Thorpe's D Continues - Geno came off the bench in the second half during a stretch where MSU turned it over on four straight possessions. I do not think that was a coincidence. He's another one with a great future in this program. More minutes please, especially when the upperclassmen don't come to play....
- Speaking of which, Pat - There are too many capable guards on this team for Chambers to ride-or-die with Newbill/Frazier in this league. DJ's legs clearly were gone as his jumper once again fell apart in the second half due to fatigue. And Frazier's struggles warranted a trip to the bench. Neither were able to get a break in the game. That can't happen when you have 5+ guards.
ClubDud - Another troubling sign to me is this team doesn't have the attitude/moxie it used to. Maybe they really do miss Colella. But as the offense trudged along, the effort seemed to go away with it. That rarely happened in the first two years under the coach and I'm not sure what to make of it yet, but I don't like it.
The Big Ten grind begins as Penn State now travels to Champaign, Illinois to take on the Illini, who survived a thriller today at home against Indiana, 83-80 in overtime. Game tips off at 2:00pm Saturday. Not a must win yet, but 0-2 starts are never good for anybody.