If you’re the type of person to take KenPom’s probability percentages as gospel, you would have had little to no confidence that Penn State (27% chance to win, according to KenPom) would be able to come into East Lansing and pull off a season-defining upset win on the road.
Tonight, Pat Chambers’ crew sent KenPom, and everyone else who wrote this one off as a loss a resounding message: Penn State basketball is not just competitive in the Big Ten this year, they’re seeking to win the whole f***ing conference.
Michigan State came out of the game like bats out of hell, hitting four of their first six attempts from the floor to jump out to a quick 12-4 advantage. The Lions would fight back however, with Lamar Stevens and Myreon Jones acting as a one-two scoring combination, particularly with Myreon knocking down three-pointer after three-pointer (Myreon would go for an incredible 6-for-8 from downtown). Even more astonishing, were the number of favorable calls PSU got in East Lansing, of all places. It was enough to make Sparty coach Tom Izzo livid to the point where he picked up a technical foul.
The Lions would continue their hot shooting streak while Sparty hit a bit of a cold spell, which allowed PSU to amass a lead as high as ten points. Sparty would go on a quick 7-0 run to cut the PSU lead down to three, but Myreon would hit another timely trey, Mike Watkins scored on a putback layup as he was fouled, and Curtis Jones would get the offensive rebound on a missed free throw by Watkins, before drawing a foul while shooting a trey himself. Curtis would nail all three foul shots and Lamar would add another bucket, before Michigan State would cut the lead to six right before halftime when Pat Chambers was whistled for a baffling technical foul following a Michigan State basket with four tenths of a second left.
The second half saw the Lions attempt to keep Sparty at arm’s length, as they pushed their lead back to ten at 49-39. Sparty however, would go on a 12-2 run to tie the game at 51 and from there on, it was a back-and-forth, rock-n-sock-em, heavyweight battle where the teams would trade leads. Every time it seemed like Sparty was going to start to pull away with momentum on their side, PSU would answer with a big-time bucket of their own.
PSU led 71-68 with 16 seconds left, thanks to a pair of critical free throws from Lamar Stevens. However, Curtis Jones would gift Sparty a chance to tie the game after committing a very ill-advised foul while Cassius Winston drove to the hoop for a quick layup to extend the game. Winston, Sparty’s 86 percent free throw shooter, shockingly missed the tying shot, and Lamar grabbed the board before being fouled. Lamar would once again come up clutch at the line, nailing both shots to put PSU back up by three .
Sparty had one last gasp from downtown, but it caught iron, and Curtis Jones nabbed the rebound before being fouled with six tenths of a second left. Curtis nailed both free throws to ice the game, and secure PSU’s biggest win of the season.
This marks only the second time in school history that PSU has left East Lansing victorious, the only other time being when Talor Battle and Company did so on Super Bowl Sunday of 2009.
PPP and Four Factors
Michigan State shot the ball better, hitting on 47 percent compared to PSU’s 41 percent. PSU was able to overcome this by winning the turnover battle (15 to 9), the offensive rebounding battle (11 to 7), and got to the line more frequently (19 attempts to Sparty’s 13). In a game as tight as this one, it’s the little things that make the difference in the end.
- Mark Dantonio, who earlier today announced his retirement as head football coach at Michigan State, was in attendance and gave a very brief halftime speech that fired up the crowd. My fellow BSD hoops writers and I joked in our Slack channel that Dantonio’s speech was going to cost PSU the game. Looks like that’s another demon PSU has finally exorcised.
- I still can’t get over the fact that PSU had a handful of calls go in their favor on the road (or even more mind-blowing, getting favorable calls in East Lansing). I guess this is what winning does for you?
- PSU now sits in a tie for fourth with Iowa, only a half game behind Michigan State, and only one game behind co-leaders Maryland and Illinois. If the regular season were to end today, they would be the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and earn that much-coveted double-bye, only having to win three games to win the tournament. There is lots of basketball to still be played, but it’s not hyperbole to suggest this team has a shot to not only earn a top-four seeding, but perhaps even win the Big Ten for the first time in program history.
- As for the NCAA Tournament: In case it wasn’t already obvious, PSU is virtually a lock at this point to make the Big Dance. They are now playing for their seeding, perhaps as high as a No. 4 seed. That high of a seed would be enough where the selection committee would try to put them in a more geographically friendly location in proximity to State College (either Albany, Cleveland, or Greensboro), instead of sending them all the way out to Sacramento or Spokane.
No. 22 Penn State (17-5, 7-4) will host Minnesota at the BJC this coming Saturday, in a rematch from their meeting in Minneapolis last month. PSU will seek to avoid being swept by the Gophers by exacting some revenge.