Coming into Michigan on a five-game win streak and having won back-to-back Big Ten conference games, Penn State sought to keep the good times rolling with yet another quality road win against a Michigan team that has been a bit Jekyll-and-Hyde. Unfortunately for PSU, Hyde showed up in full force.
The first half saw Michigan build their lead into double digits a few different times, thanks in part to Hunter Dickinson, but also some quality three-point shooting off the bench from Joey Baker, and starters Jett Howard and Kobe Bufkin getting their share of buckets. Penn State was able to keep things from getting truly ugly though, thanks to Jalen Pickett being Jalen Pickett, and six three-pointers as a team (with Seth Lundy nailing half of said three-pointers). One of those six threes for PSU included a half-court buzzer-beater by Evan Mahaffey, which turned what would’ve been a 42-31 deficit into a 42-34 deficit.
The second half could best be summarized by a flurry of alternating runs from both teams: PSU closed a double-digit deficit with an 11-0 run early in the second half to tie the game up. This was to tie the game followed by Michigan ripping off 14 straight points to give the Wolverines their largest of the game. Just when you were ready to write off the Lions though, they eventually answered with an 11-0 run of their own to put themselves in a position to steal a huge win on the road in the final couple of minutes.
Trailing by three with about 90 seconds left, Andrew Funk had a wide open three-point look from the top of the key which went halfway down and out, before Michigan grabbed the ensuing rebound and ultimately ended the game on a 7-0 run.
Player(s) of the Game
Jalen Pickett - 26 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists
Seth Lundy - 16 points (4-of-10 3 PT FG), 5 rebounds
Once again, J-Pick was a rebound shy of a double-double as he and Seth’s scoring helped keep this game from getting truly out of hand like it did for Maryland when they visited Ann Arbor the other night.
- Michigan’s Got 3-Point Specialists, Too - Joey Baker was without question, the game’s most clutch player off the bench, nailing three three-pointers, en route to the Wolverines shooting 8-for-19 from downtown. PSU by comparison, went 9-of-28 on their treys, which for a team whose MO is “bombs away” from behind the perimeter, won’t cut it on the road in Big Ten play.
- Baby Steps for Kebba - In a perfect world, Kebba Njie would be redshirting and focusing on bulking up in the weight room. Out of necessity however, he’s had to get thrown into the fire. While his stat line only featured three rebounds and a block, he didn’t look like a fish out of water like he did earlier in the season. His block was also a sign of progress as he kept his feet planted and blocked a putback attempt without fouling. Here’s to hoping we see him continuing to take such baby steps and look like a more formidable big man as we get deeper into conference play.
- Can’t Win ‘Em All - Look, I predicted a loss tonight for a reason: It’s damn hard to win on the road in the Big Ten. Yet, PSU put themselves in a position to notch another Quad 1 road dub despite Michigan’s solid offensive output. This is a squad led by a group of talented veterans who don’t know the meaning of the word “quit” and don’t panic when things start to go awry. This is why I continue to remain optimistic that the Lions can notch their share of wins throughout the remainder of the schedule and put themselves in good position to hear their name called on Selection Sunday in March.
Penn State (11-4, 2-2) takes on top-ranked, but no longer undefeated Purdue this Sunday in the much-anticipated Palestra game in Philly. Tipoff will be at 6:00 PM EST on BTN.