After Saturday’s gut-wrenching 79-76 loss to the Indiana Hoosier’s, coach Patrick Chambers scolded his team’s lack of attention to detail.
“We need to do a better job of defending and rebounding,” he said then.
Last night, in Ann Arbor, the Nittany Lions (9-9,0-5) were able to clean up their efforts without the ball and on the boards, yet struggled with turnovers, en route to an 80-67 loss.
Such has been the defining narrative for the Nittany Lions this season: The team plays well, stays competitive for most of the game, yet one significant crutch ultimately leads to a loss. One day it’s the inability to score late, the next it’s poor foul shooting, and last night in Michigan it was the failure to retain possession during key possessions.
Michigan jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first 25 seconds. Four Penn State turnovers in three minutes found the Lions quickly down 8-0 before the game’s first timeout. The Lions finished with nine turnovers in the game.
A pair of Donovon Jack field goals served as a wake up call for the Nittany Lions offense, and the team stayed within eight for the majority of the first half. However, a Jordan Morgan dunk with 4:58 remaining pushed the Wolverines’ advantage to 30-18, and it looked like Michigan was ready to put the game to rest before halftime. Jack scored 12 points on the night.
Chambers took a timeout, and Jack hit a three-pointer on the ensuing possession, which sparked a 10-3 Penn State run that ended the first half. Despite eight first half turnovers compared to Michigan’s two, the Lions went into halftime only down 40-33.
Penn State shot a higher field goal percentage than Michigan (52.2% to 50%) and outrebounded the Wolverines (15 to 10) in the first half.
The Lions opened the second half with the same fury that they closed the first half. A quick 10-5 spurt in the first four minutes found Penn State down only two points. Guard Tim Frazier intercepted a Michigan pass, sidestepped a defender, and laid the ball in to make the score 43-41. Frazier finished with 17 points, 6 assists, and 2 turnovers.
Two points would be as close as the Nittany Lions would get to Michigan’s lead. A 12-4 Michigan run in the middle of the second half effectively put the game out of reach. Whenever Penn State threatened, Michgan’s Nick Stauskas would seemingly find a way to score. The sophomore guard finished with 21 points.
As is becoming a trend, D.J. Newbill assumed the late game scoring for Penn State. A pair of Newbill free throws brought Penn State within eight with five minutes to go, but the Wolverines ultimately pulled away, capped by a Jon Horford dunk. Newbill scored 17 points on the evening.
The loss brings the Nittany Lions to 0-5 in Big Ten play. They share the Big Ten’s basement with Nebraska as the only two winless teams in conference play. Last year, it took Penn State fifteen game before it finally won its first conference matchup.
The Nittany Lions will look to pick up its first conference win against Purdue in Mackey Arena Saturday evening.