In a day that began with a much-publicized scuffle between two Michigan State players, the Spartans were able to overcome the distraction and hold off a scrappy Penn State team for Tom Izzo’s 200th conference win. Though Penn State drops to 0-5 in Big Ten play with the 81-72 loss, there was a lot to like about their performance, especially given their recent string of ugly losses.
Penn State’s largest lead of the night was its 2-0 start but the team managed to hang around with Tom Izzo’s No. 18 Spartans squad for most of the game. In fact, for the majority of the first half Penn State kept its deficit within four, never trailing by more than six at any point.
At the half, Penn State trailed Michigan State 29-25, riding on the performances of sophomore guard D.J. Newbill and junior guard Jermaine Marshall, who combined for 16 points. The Spartans’ greater success from beyond the arc accounted for the scoring differential, as both teams were about even in every other statistical category.
The game remained close early in the second half, and Penn State even managed to take a brief 36-35 lead on five straight points from Jermaine Marshall with just over 15 minutes left to play. However, Michigan State would pull away on the performance of junior center Adreian Payne, who had been benched for the first half along with teammate Branden Dawsen for their altercation earlier in the day. Both players had entered the game at the 16:37 mark, and, after Marshall’s aforementioned scores, Payne went on scoring tear. He quickly erased Penn State’s lead and went on to score 16 of the Spartans’ next 19 points in just under six minutes.
Despite their inability to stop Payne, the Nittany Lions managed to keep the game within reach until the 10-minute mark, when Payne converted a 3-point play and proceeded to hit a three from the top of the key to increase Michigan State’s lead to ten. He would score just four points for the rest of the game, but his performance up to that point proved to be the catalyst that Michigan State needed to shake off Penn State. In the next five minutes, the Spartans pushed the lead to a game-high of 16. Penn State trailed 70-54 with five minutes to play.
Over the next three minutes, Jermaine Marshall led a furious comeback attempt on a 12-1 Penn State run that cut the lead to five with two minutes left to play. However, that would be as close as the Nittany Lions could get — Michigan State would ultimately come out on top with the 81-72 win.
Despite playing just 17 minutes, Payne finished the game with a career-high 20 points. After the game, Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo explained that both Payne and Dawsen had earned their right to play because of how they responded to and resolved their earlier altercation; their benching “would probably have been [for]the whole game” otherwise.
For Penn State, both Newbill and Marshall posted career highs in scoring — 27 points on 8 of 12 shooting and 29 points on 10-18 shooting, respectively. Overall, the Nittany Lions shot 48% from the field but the team’s atypical offensive efficiency was paired with an inability to stop Michigan State, which sank 47% of its attempts and scored 52 points in the second half.
“In this league, you need to get stops and you’d better do it at home,” said Penn State’s Coach Pat Chambers. “We had a great opportunity tonight. I felt we let it slip away.”
- Outside of the backcourt duo of Newbill and Marshall, no Nittany Lion scored more than two buckets.
- Marshall posted his first career double-double on 29 points and 10 rebounds, both career highs.
- Newbill broke out of his shooting slump and sank eight of 12 attempts after having shot 40% or below in the previous four conference games.
- Penn State shot 48% from the field after having shot 26% against Purdue, 31.6% against Northwestern, and 31.7% against Indiana.
- Penn State’s 72 points was by far the team’s highest scoring performance in conference games — the next-best performance was posted in the Nittany Lions’ 70-54 loss to Northwestern.