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Michigan State 76, Penn State 68: A Great Effort On The Road Falls Short

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The end of the game was not pretty, but the first 32 minutes were for the Lions.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Pat Chambers’ team played well enough to win the game until the final eight minutes. A late-game scoring drought for Penn State combined with a hot-shooting Spartan effort to close out the game proved to be too much. While it wasn’t the result that the Lions wanted, it was a great experience for the young team. In seasons past this game would have been a blowout.

Penn State came out ready to play, which can be very important on the road in the hostile confines of the Breslin Center. At the first media timeout every starter for the Lions had already attempted at least one shot, a good sign of ball movement in the early-going.

Midway through the opening half Tony Carr was 4 of 6 from the field including two long-balls, good for ten points and a 15-10 Penn State lead.

The Spartans had a scoreless streak that extended for six minutes and the Lions were able to stretch the advantage to 19-12 with just under eight minutes to play before halftime. Turnovers were a problem for MSU, they had seven to the Lions’ one at this point in the game.

The Lions had a 16-6 edge in points in the paint when Josh Reaves dunked with 2:25 on the clock and a 28-18 lead. Reaves got past the Michigan State defenders for the offensive rebound. Mike Watkins got behind the defense in the first half as well and Reaves found him for the dunk.

Michigan State closed the gap toward the end of the half but the Lions hung in there to hold a 30-24 lead at the break. Nazeer Bostick had a clean block of a three-pointer at the buzzer, a great way for a perfect defensive half to come to an end for Penn State.

Nick Ward made a rebound for the Spartans and then swung an elbow into the chin of Josh Reaves a little over a minute into the second half. The referees looked at the play, causing a brief delay, and then handed Ward a contact technical. As a result Penn State got two foul shots and the ball, leading 32-24 after Tony Carr hit the free throws. Reaves hit a runner in the lane to bring the lead out to ten on the ensuing possession.

The Spartans began showing signs of losing their composure again when Miles Bridges needlessly knocked Josh Reaves to the floor, picking up a foul just as the Lions made a basket. The result was similar to a technical foul in that the basket counted and PSU got the ball. Penn State scored on the next possession to extend the lead to 12 with sixteen minutes to play.

The tide soon turned as Pat Chambers was forced to call a timeout to halt an 8-0 run with 13:06 on the clock. The tactic didn’t help much as the Spartans tied the game at 41 shortly after. The lead evaporated during a four-minute scoreless stretch for Penn State.

Mike Watkins and Lamar Stevens answered with buckets on consecutive possessions to regain a four-point lead. A few minutes later the game was tied at 49 apiece. The Spartans weren’t done with the run, gaining a six-point lead with 7:22 to play. The lead got out to ten points with less than four minutes to play. Penn State was mired in another long scoring drought, this time lasting over three minutes.

By the time the Lions scored, ending the long scoring drought, they were down 15. To their credit, Penn State cut into the lead and continued to fight for the rest of the game, coming up short as expected on the road versus the No. 5 team in the country.

PPP and Four Factors

Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 68 1.21 58.6% 37.9% 16.3% 15.6%
Iowa 0.86 39.1% 31.6% 19.2% 40.0%

Shep Garner and Tony Carr combined for 6 of 14 from behind the arc. The rest of the Penn State team hit 1 of 10. The Lions had a great advantage in turnover margin, 16-8, and that is what kept the team in the game early on. Without the scoring drought to end the game, these numbers wouldn’t look so bad for Penn State. The effort was there but it was not sustained.

Player of the Game

Josh Reaves- (6 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 5 steals) Reaves struggled from behind the arc (0-5) but filled out the box score in many other categories. His energy and defense kept the team in the game until late in the second half.

Random Thoughts

  • It was nice to see the Lions acutely focused at the very start of the game. The loose balls were finding Penn State hands and the team was finishing defensive efforts. A simple lack of intensity, a problem at times in the recent past for Pat Chambers’ team, could have cost them any chance at hanging close with the Spartans in the first half.
  • Watching the team play in the first half with players such as Julian Moore and Trent Buttrick helping out on the low-post versus a tough Spartan team, it was impressive that they were not a liability. Moore has worked very hard to get into a position where he can provide critical depth. Buttrick has proven to be a worthy addition to the squad, making a contribution as a freshman. Zemgulis and Harrar made appearances early in the second half while the team built a lead.
  • The end of the game showed where the Lions need to improve. When the intensity picked up, Penn State began playing tight. There was less ball movement, more isolation plays and not very many good offensive possessions. While it is tough to watch the team continue to struggle at the end of the game with continuing to be fluid on offense and keeping the ball moving, it would not be a factor had the team not brought the intensity needed earlier in the game. In past years, this game would have been decided prior to halftime. Now the team needs to push through and play a more cohesive game late, on the road in a tight game.

Up Next

Penn State will host Iowa on Saturday. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network at 6 p.m.