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Michigan 58, Penn State 57: From Scorching Hot to Ice Cold

Penn State shot well enough to build a double-digit lead late in the first half, only to see it evaporate by halftime and with it, their chances to win.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight’s game was a critical one for both teams, as Michigan found itself on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble according to bracketologists, and Penn State was seeking another big home win after upsetting Iowa last week. A win for Michigan would allow them to avoid another resume-busting loss, while a win for Penn State would give them another feel-good victory that could build momentum to have a strong February. Unfortunately for PSU, they would find themselves without starting forward Greg Lee, who apparently hurt his ankle in practice yesterday and sent out an Instagram story of him wearing a walking boot over his right foot.

The game began with both teams trading buckets and keeping things close for the PSU however, continued to shoot at an amazing clip, getting up to nearly 70 percent from the floor at one point, thanks in large part to Jalen Pickett lighting up with 10 early points and Sam Sessoms getting layup after layup like Will Smith in the Fresh Prince basketball dream sequence. It was enough to propel a 15-3 run that pushed their lead as high as eleven points. Unfortunately, PSU went ice cold for the final 3:55 of the first half, which allowed Michigan to go on an 11-0 run to tie the game at the half and suck out all the momentum from a raucous White Out crowd in attendance.

The second half featured enough brick-laying from both teams to build a couple of houses that would’ve made Habitat for Humanity blush, as both teams shot close to 20 percent overall. Michigan kept a steady one-to-two possession lead throughout, doing just enough to keep the Lions at bay. PSU would tie the game with less than four minutes left on a pair of John Harrar free throws, but never regained the lead. Michigan took care of business at the free throw line down the stretch as PSU just couldn’t buy a basket when they absolutely needed one. Myles Dread nailed a trey at the buzzer that was meaningless to everyone except for the degenerates, making it a one-point loss instead of four (Michigan was a 2.5-point favorite coming in).

Four Factors

The offensive rebounding and free throw rate percentages tell the story, right here. Michigan not only out-rebounded PSU overall (39 to 30) but also tallied 14 offensive boards. Furthermore, the Wolverines had 22 trips to the free throw line as opposed to PSU’s seven, nailing 19 of their 22 attempts. Even though PSU hit on all but one of their free throws, the discrepancy in attempts alone was enough to put Michigan over the top.

Player(s) of the Game

Jalen Pickett and Sam Sessoms were the only two Lions to reach double-digits in scoring with 14 and 13, apiece. Pickett scored 10 of his 14 points in the first half to help build PSU’s 11-point lead, while Sessoms seemed to nail scooping layup after scooping layup. Unfortunately, both players went rather cold in the second half, along with everyone else on the floor.

Random Observations

  • Momentum Squandered - With PSU in complete command of the game, Micah Shrewsberry decided to roll out a lineup that included Jaheam Cornwall, Caleb Dorsey, and Jevonnie Scott. Three guys who while they might be solid in practice, are not guys that should be seeing the floor at a critical juncture where the team was looking to boat race a shaky Michigan squad. This is something he’ll likely learn from, but my goodness, if that wasn’t a total momentum-killer.
  • [Insert Taylor Twellman “What Are We Doing?” GIF Here] - The lack of motion and guys standing around on offense while Sessoms or Pickett tried to play one-on-one ball was baffling. I get wanting to slow the tempo down, but it doesn’t mean having to milk 20 seconds off the shot clock before trying to get off a shot and fire up something low-percentage.
  • No Greg Lee = Huge Problems - Not having Greg Lee available during November and early December probably cost this team a couple of wins. No question, it also cost them a win tonight, as Lee would’ve likely scored some points and definitely would have gotten his share of rebounds, not forcing John Harrar to have to carry the load by himself. Throwing White, Dorsey, and Scott in the mix led to marginal results, at best up front. Here’s to hoping Greg gets healthy before season’s end, in what will be his final college hoops season, as he is out of eligibility and won’t be able to earn a medical waiver from the NCAA, having played in over 30 percent of PSU’s games.
  • At Least The White Out Was Kind of Nice - Tonight’s game was the annual hoops edition of the White Out and while the late tip on a Tuesday night didn’t help, it was nice to see the Legion of Blue student section filled up and decked out in White.

Up Next

Penn State (9-11, 4-8) will head to Minneapolis this Saturday to take on Minnesota. Tipoff will be at 8:30 PM ET on B1G Network.