Penn State's offensive woes have been well-documented. The combination of a lacking roster and stiff Big Ten defense has taken its toll on an attack that came into league with some momentum. In four conference games, Penn State was averaging 49.5 PPG on just 0.79 PPP efficiency.
So when your two best players are inexplicably able to find driving lanes all game long, attempt 23 free throws, and combine for 56 points on just 30 shots, you'd have to think Penn State would put themselves in a great position for a win. And they did for the most part.
But despite their own offensive explosion, Penn State couldn't muster even the slightest resistance to Michigan State's offense in the high-scoring second half. Even a fight amongst their own teammates couldn't slow down the Spartans. In fact, it likely rejuvenated them.
Adreian Payne was a man-possessed, despite sitting the entire first half. In just 17 minutes, he led the Spartans in scoring with 20 points (a career-high) on 9 shots (and 10 FTA, which equals a 111.1 free throw rate!) and 7 rebounds. Penn State had no one in the building that could even slow him down. At one point mid-way through the 2nd half, Payne scored 16-straight MSU points that opened up a 10-point lead PSU wasn't able to overcome.
It's simply disappointing to see this team find great success for once on the offensive end and still come up short, but hopefully this gives them something to build on. They easily played their best offensive game of the season, adjusting for competition level. Despite lackluster nights from Brandon Taylor, who went scoreless for the first time since the season-opener, Ross Travis, and Sasa Borovnjak, Penn State shot 53.8% eFG% and only turned the ball over on 11.8% of their possessions. They also were effective at earning trips to the foul line (54.0 FTR). The total output equaled 1.08 points-per-possession, a figure that is nothing to scoff at from a Tim Frazier-less Penn State.
Michigan State was just a bit better in every area. They had one less turnover, two more 3PM, and three more free throws. It all added up to a 9-point win, despite a ferocious rally by Penn State. The Nits could've stayed alive for a little bit longer if Jon Graham converted a point-blank putback layup, but the miss symbolized for the Lions' season thus far.
Salute to you, Jermaine Marshall (29 points, 10 rebounds) and DJ Newbill (27 points, 6 assists, 3 turnovers) for both logging career-highs in your best performances in a Penn State uniform. It's a shame it didn't result in a win.