Denzel Valentine returned to the Michigan State rotation in a limited role on Saturday, but his triple-double capabilities were hardly needed for the Spartans as sharpshooter Bryn Forbes lived up to his reputation and then some. The Cleveland State transfer put the game out of reach with six first half threes, the last of which deflated an otherwise energized BJC crowd heading into the break.
Penn State struggled to get any rhythm on offense in that first half, and despite some respectable defense against Spartans not named Forbes, the Lions saw themselves down double digits for a majority of the half. Slowly but surely Penn State got its way into the bonus on the backs of Shep Garner and Julian Moore, who bounced back well after an anonymous start to his B1G season with eight first half points. Of course, getting to the line and hitting freebies are separate issues - PSU missed five of their first eight attempts, compounding their shooting woes at all three levels:
Shep Garner's layup with 8:44 is Penn State's first bucket against Mich St's half court defense.— Marley Paul (@MarleyPaul22) January 10, 2016
Sparty led by as many as 16 with nine minutes and change to play. Penn State would force some turnovers and start to hit some of their 19 total free throw attempts, but Michigan State charged back behind the newly-healthy Gavin Schilling and Forbes to lead 40-27 at the half.
To say that momentum continued into the second half would be an understatement. Only Garner improved on his first 20 minutes, and even he found the going tough with a Spartan contesting nearly every single one of his makes. While he and his teammates labored for open looks, Michigan State sliced and diced every defensive set thrown at them. Valentine came alive in the second half, finishing with 10 points and four assists, and from there it was ineffective damage control for Pat Chambers.
Four Factors Analysis
This was your prototypical Tom Izzo game by Michigan State. They played with intelligence and physicality, and when players like Valentine and Forbes are running the show, they can be absolutely deadly. 1.30 points per possession, even against a defense as inconsistent as Penn State's, is a sign of an offense that operates with precision. The full arsenal was on display in the BJC, and I'd be hard pressed to pick against a healthy Sparty in March.
Player of the Game - Shep Garner: 19 pts, 3 reb
Garner worked extremely hard for his 19 points, attacking clogged lanes and hitting tough floaters all day. However, if this game doesn't perfectly illustrate that he's not a true point guard, and that Penn State's offense needs one in order to even complete with the conference's elite teams, I don't know what does. Thank goodness for Tony Carr (10 months until next season, if you're counting).
- More Moore - The redshirt sophomore has had his struggles, but clearly offers more on the offensive end than Jordan Dickerson and Donovon Jack combined. Moore (13 points, four rebounds) did well to get McDonald's All-American freshman Deyonta Davis into early foul trouble with some post moves on the deep block when the game was still in some doubt for MSU.
- Daring to share - When Penn State's offense isn't flowing, it sure is ugly. Garner was effective to an extent (7-14 from the field), but he and Brandon Taylor were vacuums on Saturday. Neither tallied an assist after they combined for 11 against Minnesota during the week. Piling on these two is a little unfair since only two players, Josh Reaves and Devin Foster, accounted for Penn State's measly five assists.
Chambers will need to emphasize ball movement over the next two days, because up next the Nittany Lions have their toughest challenge of the season. Purdue, the nation's top-ranked defense which allows 0.87 points per possession, plays host to Penn State on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. ET. Get ready for some #SingleDigitWatch tweets.