Today was the day where we would begin to find out what this Penn State team is truly made of, as they began the first of a challenging next several games to open Big Ten play. First up was a trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan against an undefeated Wolverines squad looking for revenge after last season’s defeat. Early on, it seemed that Michigan was well on track to exact such revenge, as the Lions struggled to shoot the rock while Michigan gradually padded their lead into high single digits.
Every time Michigan seemed poised to push the lead into double digits and really run away with this one though, somebody on PSU, whether it be Myreon Jones, Myles Dread, or Sam Sessoms, would step up with a three-pointer to keep the Lions within striking distance. Even when Michigan ripped off a 9-0 run late in the half to push their lead to as high as 15 points, the Lions finished the half on a run of their own, led in part by a pair of buckets from freshman forward Abdou Tsimbila to cut the deficit down to 36-27 going into the half. This, despite shooting only 30 percent from the floor compared to Michigan’s 52 percent.
PSU would pick up where they left off to start the second half, coming all the way back to take the lead for the first time all afternoon at 39-38, thanks to Izaiah Brockington and John Harrar picking up the scoring slack. Michigan’s new starting center Hunter Dickinson, stepping in for the injured Austin Davis however, would answer back with an and-one. From there, it was a back-and-forth affair with several lead changes as neither team would allow this game to get beyond one possession. Unfortunately, PSU began to get cold from the field and even worse, from the free throw line. The five-minute scoring drought allowed Michigan to push their lead back up to six with four minutes to play.
Myles Dread had something to say about that however, draining a clutch trey, followed by Sessoms completing an and-one opportunity to give PSU back the lead momentarily. Dickinson would answer back though for the Wolverines, with a game-tying dunk, followed by a go-ahead layup to push Michigan’s lead back to two in the game’s final minute. Penn State had a chance with Michigan missing both free throws with 18 seconds left to either tie or win the game with a three-pointer. Sam Sessoms took the ball and cleared the way for a drive to the hoop, but missed, and in a double whammy, was seen clutching his ankle after hitting the floor.
Michigan would ice the game from the free throw line by hitting a pair to make it 62-58 with five seconds left. A valiant effort by the Lions, but it just wasn’t quite enough. Going forward though, one should expect to see this type of effort night in and night out, and it may be enough to pull off some upsets down the road.
On a day where PSU shot only 31 percent from the floor, it was the defense that allowed them to keep them in the fight to the very end, forcing 16 Michigan turnovers (to only 8 for PSU). They also did a solid job on the offensive glass, giving themselves critical second and third scoring opportunities. Unfortunately, free throw shooting (Michigan had 20 trips to the line compared to 15 for PSU and shot at a higher percentage) also ended up being a killer in the end for the Lions.
Player of The Game
Izaiah Brockington’s 14 points and six rebounds during his explosive second half performance played a big role in PSU hanging right there to the very end. For that, he’s our BSD MVP.
- Abdou The Enforcer - It sure was nice to see Tsimbila see his share of action and hold his own against a quality Big Ten opponent with couple rebounds, a couple buckets, and a block. Any interior depth that can be established is vital going forward.
- Too Legit To Quit - Seriously, can we take a moment to appreciate the fight this team has shown? I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought things would plummet after blowing the Seton Hall game, but they came out like bats out of hell and waxed Virginia Tech the following game and today when it seemed like Michigan was going to blow them out of the water, they clawed their way back. The “attitude” mantra of Pat Chambers has certainly carried over under Jim Ferry thus far.
- Not Getting it Done at the Charity Stripe - Trailing 52-50 with 6:30 to go, John Harrar just missed throwing down an alley-oop dunk while being fouled. Instead, he went to the line where he proceeded to brick both free throws. He went back to the line thirty seconds later and missed the front end of a one-in-one. He wasn’t the only one to miss free throws for PSU today, but in those moments of a tight game, every shot matters, and you absolutely have to take advantage from the charity stripe.
- That Pink And Black Magic Has a Finite Limit - Today marked the first time in regular season play that PSU lost when wearing the pink and black uniforms. I’d anticipate a return to the normal uniforms next game.
Penn State’s next scheduled game is at Illinois on December 23rd. However, it is possible they will make up their original season opener against Drexel before then, so keep an eye out for an announcement in the near future.