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Penn State 72, Michigan State 63: Lions Notch a Critical Win in Philly

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There would be no blowing a second half lead, today.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Penn State Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps it was that historical aura of the Palestra building that inspired the several Philly-area natives on the roster (Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens, Mike Watkins, Shep Garner, and Julian Moore) to step up and put on arguably their best all-around performances of the season, thus far. The first half saw the likes of Carr and Payton Banks nailing three pointers while Mike Watkins asserted his will in the paint on both sides of the ball, throwing down some sick dunks and swatting shots. Moore displayed increased confidence in himself, not afraid to try and take it to the hoop as well as racking up a pair of blocks, while Stevens was knocking down shots all over from short and mid-range, and Shep made his SH3P appearances from time-to-time. Josh Reaves also provided a nice boost with his defensive presence and Michael Jordan-esque dunks (fitting for someone who rocks the number 23 jersey). As a result, PSU carried a nice 44-32 lead heading into the locker room at halftime with a raucous crowd at the Palestra behind them.

The second half saw Michigan State push back and the Lions go cold from the field. The PSU players visibly looked exhausted at times, as if they had run out of gas and it was only a matter of time before Sparty would take over the game and PSU fans would once again be wondering “if only...” Thankfully, the Lions caught a second wind and were able to dig deep defensively while hitting just enough shots to keep Sparty at bay, securing this young team’s biggest win of the season, by far. Stevens led all scorers with 18 points, while Carr added 14, and Banks and Watkins tallied 11 apiece.

Four Factors

Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 71 1.07 50.0% 35.5% 19.7% 47.3%
Nebraska - 0.94 39.5% 34.0% 11.3% 13.2%

The biggest difference you’ll notice is in offensive rebounding, as Penn State asserted itself by grabbing nine offensive rebounds compared to Sparty’s three, en route to out-rebounding them by a 36-26 margin. The PPP for PSU at halftime was 1.24, thanks to shooting about 60% from the floor in the first half, but that dipped significantly enough in the second half to bring it below 1.00 for the Lions. Penn State really clamped down defensively as well, forcing 17 Sparty turnovers.

Player of the Game - Lamar Stevens (18 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists)

Once again, Mr. Stevens is your BSD MVP, and deservedly so. He was a presence all over the court, whether it was knocking down jump shots, taking the ball to the hoop, or grabbing rebounds, even dishing out the occasional assist. Lamar nearly did it all, and led all scorers in the process.

Random Observations

1. The optics sure were nice - So, the White-Out of the Palestra looked good on TV. The mics also did a fine job capturing the “WE ARE...PENN STATE” chants that rained out when things were going well for the good guys. Here’s to hoping that Sandy Barbour works to make a home game at the Palestra an annual thing from here on out.

2. This team finally learned how to finish the job- When Sparty whittled the PSU lead down to five midway through the second half, it felt like deja vu all over again. We have seen many games over the years where the Lions would start strong and carry a double digit lead into the second half, only for the shots to stop falling, the defense to break down, and the turnovers to start piling up. Props to the coaching staff and players though, for finding a way to weather the storm and finish strong. This can go a long way towards building confidence when they find themselves in similar situations down the road.

Up Next

Penn State (10-7, 2-2) gets a much-needed week of rest before hosting Minnesota next Saturday at the Jordan Center. Tip-off is at 12:00 PM ET on ESPNU.