It's been an exhausting season so far, even unbearable at times, but this past week alone has been something else. Chambers has been telling everyone who will listen that his team was 'close. That hasn't been more evident than their past two games. They haven't broken through with a needed win yet, but after going toe-to-toe with a national title contender in their arena for 40 minutes, you have to think that they'll get over the hump before the end of the year.
0-13 teams should not be playing as hard as PSU continues to play. The marketing campaign all year long has been 'All In' and the players' have taken that to heart. Who knows when it will be pay off, but they earned some respect today in Ann Arbor after falling short against the Wolverines, 79-71. Not once did the Nittany Lions trail by double-digits.
Penn State doesn't look like a team that's winless in league play. Impressive fight being shown by the Lions.— Raphielle Johnson (@raphiellej) February 17, 2013
Man, it's tough not to be impressed with #NitanyLions resolve.One thing I've noticed doing their games - always, always give great effort— Dave Revsine (@BTNDaveRevsine) February 17, 2013
Penn State can’t stop Trey Burke, but no one can. They’ve played really well — giving Michigan a real run in Ann Arbor.— Eamonn Brennan (@eamonnbrennan) February 17, 2013
Impressed with Penn State's effort today at Michigan. Nittany Lions will be tough in 13-14 with additions of Tim Frazier + John Johnson.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 17, 2013
Teams that struggle like Penn State has this season are usually punching bags for the media throughout the course of the year, but they had a chance to leave an impression against one of the country's best and it was a positive one.
Penn State got off to a great start, leading for most of the first half before going into the break tied. Michigan seemed to be lagging after coming off their brutal 4-game stretch that ended in an ass-kicking to Michigan State. No one outside of Trey Burke seemed interested in scoring the basketball as the Wolverines missed open lay-ups and threes alike.
The Lions had their own issues in the first half with foul trouble. Both DJ Newbill and Jermaine Marshall picked up 2 fouls a piece early in the period, and then Newbill seemingly got robbed on a charging call that gave him 3 before the break. Even without their two best players, PSU wasn't quite able to hold onto their early lead, but they still managed to go to the half tied.
The second half was a different story as Michigan came out with more energy. But while it seemed like the Wolverines were poised to break the game open numerous times in the half, the Lions always responded. However, to pull off the upset of the year, they had to be flawless, and PSU wasn't able to avoid one less turnover, one less foul, or one more rebound.
Sasa Borovnjak and Jermaine Marshall led Penn State with 17 points each. It was a career-high for Sasa, who had his 2nd big offensive game in a row. The Lions also wouldn't have been anywhere in this contest without the big contributions from Nick Colella (36 minutes, 9 points) and Ross Travis (38 minutes, 11 points, 10 rebounds). Both of these guys kept the offense afloat in the first half and kept their strong play going in the 2nd, countering many of Michigan's buckets.
The Lions just weren't able to get enough stops down the stretch, once again having severe fouling problems and surrending 35 FTAs to the Wolverines. Michigan scored 1.22 PPP with just 6 turnovers (9% TO%) and a 71.4 free throw rate. It's going to be nearly impossible for PSU to win a game while giving up that efficiency to their opponents, let alone on the road.
Penn State remains win-less in the Big Ten but will now travel to Illinois' Assembly Hall on Thursday, a place they've had success before.