This is the win we’ve all been waiting for, Nittany Nation.
After inching closer to victory in its last few conference games, this Penn State squad finally broke through in spectacular fashion with an electric upset of 4th-ranked Michigan, a team that was very much in the hunt for a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Trailing by 15 with just over 10 minutes to play, Penn State came storming back to emphatically record its first conference victory this season, defeating the Wolverines 84-78.
“Words can’t express how I feel right now,” an elated Pat Chambers said. “We were on a 14-game losing streak […] and [our players]didn’t lose the fight, they didn’t lose the fire.”
“I kept saying we were close,” Chambers continued. “I knew we were going to earn one somewhere, somewhere down the line. I didn’t know when and where. But what a great night to do it.”
It was Senior Night in the Bryce Jordan Center and the Nittany Lions started the game strong behind the leadership of senior guard Nick Colella and graduating forward Sasa Borovnjak. Penn State never allowed a Michigan lead greater than seven points at any point in the first half — Michigan star point guard and former Penn State commit Trey Burke broke an early 10-10 tie with a three but Colella came right back with a triple of his own.
Although the Wolverines shot 54% from the floor in the first half, Penn State was able to hang around due to its success from beyond the arc (5 for 10) and its 15 points off of 10 Michigan turnovers. Heading into the locker room, Newbill, Travis, and Taylor led the Nittany Lions with seven points apiece as Penn State trailed #4 Michigan, 39-36.
Penn State’s promising start seemed to be erased when the Nittany Lions immediately let up an 8-0 run to start the second half. After Penn State trimmed the deficit to four, Michigan responded with a 17-6 run, capped off by a emphatic dunk by sophomore forward Jon Horford that gave the Wolverines their largest lead of the night at 66-51.
With just over 10 minutes left to play and Penn State trailing by 15, Michigan looked to have the game under control. However, Penn State fought back behind the lights-out long-range shooting of Jermaine Marshall, whose three point barrage led Penn State on a 23-8 run to tie the game at 74 with five minutes left to play.
Following a pair of free throws from Jermaine Marshall to give Penn State its first lead since the first half, the Nittany Lions found themselves just minutes away from not only their first conference win, but their first upset of a top-5 team since 2001. Leading 77-75 with just under three minutes left to play, Newbill drove the baseline and connected on a layup to push the Penn State lead to four.
Michigan fought back within one after sinking three of four free throw attempts. But with the crowd on the edge of its seats, Jermaine Marshall beat two defenders on a spin move and scored on a clutch finger roll to put Penn State up by three with 1:06 to play. After a missed layup by Michigan forward Glenn Robinson III, Senior Night honorees Colella and Borovnjak sealed the victory by converting three of four from the line.
As Penn State students prepared to rush the court, Michigan’s Trey Burke misfired on a desperation three to cap off a 6:30 stretch in which the Wolverines failed to record a single field goal. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, a jubilant Penn State student body flooded the court to celebrate their team’s unlikely first conference win.
“We were just excited about the win. All year we believed that we could get it done. We just came up short a couple times,” Newbill said, speaking on the team’s struggles in conference play.
“Tonight, it’s just a relief,” Newbill continued. “All the hard work, all the film sessions, all the practices, all the shootarounds, all the coming to the gym by ourselves… it paid off for us.”
As for the students rushing the court after the game? “It’s just a great feeling, to see how happy the fans were, all our team… it’s a memory I’m going to have for my life,” Newbill said.