After an embarrassing loss to Michigan State, Penn State men’s basketball needed to find some footing. Luckily, the next game on its schedule was one fans have been circling for a while: a date with Michigan at Philadelphia’s historic Palestra.
Despite an electric atmosphere in a sold-out arena, the Nittany Lions had a subpar offensive start. Penn State made just six of its first 22 field goal attempts and Kanye Clary was one for his first nine. The team was generating plenty of good offensive looks, but shots were not falling. But, a gritty defensive effort and some press looks prevented Michigan from entering early blowout territory.
While the game got off to a generally sloppy start, Penn State put together a very encouraging defensive performance. The team finished with seven steals in the first half, led by Ace Baldwin’s three takeaways. The Palestra crowd would swell louder and louder as Michigan players struggled to break the press, and then finally erupted when the Nittany Lions forced a turnover.
Baldwin was a bright spot on Penn State’s offensive end in the first half as he entered the locker room with a game-high 11 points. Zach Hicks also added two timely treys on five attempts. Still, the Nittany Lions trailed 37-27 at the half.
Penn State came out swinging out of the locker room and woke the Palestra crowd right up. A quick 9-2 run and four consecutive field goals cut Michigan’s deficit to three, forcing a Wolverine timeout and causing a Zombie Nation-induced fan explosion.
The Nittany Lions kept things close through the beginning of the second half, and it was just a matter of time before they took the lead. D’Marco Dunn nailed a triple after some crafty passing by Baldwin and Leo O’Boyle, giving Penn State a two-point advantage. Dunn went on a nasty run and ended up scoring eight consecutive points, extending the lead to seven.
Penn State seemingly fixed its first-half offensive issues as it continued to streak throughout the second period, leading by as many as 11 points. Michigan was able to cut into its deficit thanks to some good shooting in the final minutes and keen usage of deliberate fouls. It was too little too late and Penn State walked away with a massive 79-73 win.
Player of the Game
Ace Baldwin Jr. — 25 points, 4 assists, 3 steals
Balwin’s first-half defensive performance kept Penn State in this game, and his second-half offensive play sealed the deal. His playmaking was particularly on display today and he made a few hilariously good passes to set his teammates up,
- The Palestra might be perfect: What an atmosphere. The history, the ambiance, the natural light streaming in. It was a great day of basketball, and Penn State fans made sure it got very loud.
- This team plays hard: Mike Rhoades constantly harps on playing hard, and it shows on the court. Even when Penn State was down early, it continued to fight and made some amazing defensive plays.
- The D’Marco Dunn takeover: This was not on my bingo card. Dunn’s 8-0 run midway through the second half was absolutely the turning point in the game. Dawg.