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The Lions Fall To Michigan, 72-63

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Pat Chambers’ team played well but it wasn’t enough to beat the No. 17 team in the country tonight.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State (19-11 9-8) was unable to get a much-needed conference win in front of a very supportive crowd in the final home game of the season. With the loss, the team will head to Nebraska, needing a win to finish out the regular-season and stay on the NCAA tournament bubble.

The teams came out ready to play with each hitting a three-point shot in the early-going. With the score 5-3 and just 3:41 off the clock, Mike Watkins went to the floor with an apparent knee injury. After missing most of the Purdue game with foul trouble, Watkins limped to the sideline with help under each arm, unable to put weight on his right side initially. The massive crowd inside the Bryce Jordan Center was quieted at the sight of the big man being helped off the floor.

Satchel Pierce came into the game and scored on his first possession while filling the gaping hole in Penn State’s lineup at the center position. Julian Moore scored on the following trip and the Lions were getting production from each back-up big man, but trailed Michigan 14-9 at the under-eight minute break.

Moore added two free-throws and a dunk to cut the lead to 16-15 at the midway point in the opening half. The Lions went into the under-8 minute timeout in the midst of a three-minute scoring drought, but trailed by just three points.

Mike Watkins came back into the game with 7:17 left on the clock before halftime but he was noticeably slowed by the injury. Pat Chambers was forced to call a timeout with just under five minutes on the clock to stop a Michigan run that stretched the lead to seven. Watkins went back to the bench. The lead got to as much as thirteen before Penn State was able to begin to cut into it.

Lamar Stevens hit a runner in the lane to cut the Michigan lead to 34-26 seconds before halftime. Stevens was quiet early but the basket gave him 8 points at the break.

The Lions came out for the second half focused and ready to play. Within two minutes Michigan was forced to call timeout to slow down Pat Chambers’ team, the lead down to just four. Josh Reaves hit his first bucket of the night and Tony Carr hit a runner in the lane to tie the game at 38 apiece. The free throw after being fouled in the process of scoring by Carr gave Penn State a one-point lead in the midst of an 8-0 run. Just four minutes came off the clock and the Wolverine lead had evaporated.

Tony Carr found Lamar Stevens for the dunk in transition shortly after and the crowd inside of the Bryce Jordan Center erupted.

The score gave the Lions a three-point lead and the crowd was back at full force for the remainder of the game. Michigan fought back, getting two three-pointers by center Moritz Wagner, and the score was 44-43 with 11:33 to play.

The teams swapped three-pointers and made baskets and it was 49-48 when there was an issue with the shot-clock that stopped play for almost five minutes with 8:14 left to play in the game. When it was settled, the Lions had only 3 seconds to shoot out of the break, and Shep Garner missed a desperation three. It was a very unfortunate turn of events for Penn State as the clock malfunction cost it a possession. Michigan scored the next five points to take a six-point lead with 7:03 to play.

Down five with 4:26 to play, Lamar Stevens missed two free throws, and was 0-4 for the game from the charity stripe at the time. Tony Carr cut the lead to four with 2:43 to play on a made three-pointer. Michigan hit a three-point shot, good for a nine-point lead with just 1:21 after the Lions failed to score on two straight possessions.

The game was never in doubt from that point as Michigan hit its free throws to hold the lead.

PPP and Four Factors

Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 64 1.13 45.7% 36.8% 14.0% 43.1%
Notre Dame 0.98 41.7% 40.0% 18.6% 28.3%

Penn State forced more turnovers than Michigan typically commits. The difference of the game may have come down to a handful of missed free-throws by the Lions when the teams were jockeying for position in the closing minutes.

Player of the Game

Tony Carr (21 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks) Carr started out slow in the scoring column but like many times, at the end of the game he filled out the stat sheet.

Random Thoughts

  • The team got into a lull midway through the first half offensively. Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens were very quiet during the stretch with Mike Watkins on the bench unable to help out. The momentary lack of focus allowed Michigan to build a healthy lead heading into halftime, and also turn the volume down inside the packed arena.
  • Even at times when the team is struggling it is apparent that there is a great deal of star power on the squad. Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens, Josh Reaves, and Shep Garner are enough to beat many Big Ten teams, even without Mike Watkins on the floor. Let’s hope Watkins comes back strong for the stretch-run.
  • The three-headed backup center monster did pretty well to keep the Lions in the game. Harrar, Moore, and Pierce played well enough to give the rest of the team a chance to win. The trio played a combined 24 minutes and scored 10 points while filling in for the injured Watkins.
  • The Lions did not lack for support inside the Bryce Jordan Center. The fans were present and loud, contributing to a noticeable home-court advantage. The official attendance number was 13,586.

Up Next

The Lions travel to Nebraska for the regular-season finale. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network at 5:15 p.m. on Sunday. A week from today the Big Ten tournament begins (for some teams) in Madison Square Garden.