Penn State Men’s Basketball Blows 14-Point Lead In Second Half To Fall 72-69 To Michigan

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Penn State (9-7, 1-2 Big Ten) stayed on the road Wednesday traveling to Ann Arbor for its third Big Ten game of the season after securing its first conference win Sunday against Rutgers. Michigan (11-4, 1-1 Big Ten) lost its only conference game of the season Sunday after a tough loss on the road in overtime to Iowa. Pat Chambers had Mike Watkins and Shep Garner come off the bench again for Penn State, presumably so they can ease back into game shape after battling flu-like symptoms. Penn State blew a second half lead after dominating most of the game, losing a tough one on the road 72-69.

How It Happened

Penn State controlled the game early on by dominating Michigan inside in the paint on both ends of the floor. The Wolverines have struggled inside all year, and the Nittany Lions took advantage. Lamar Stevens really took advantage this game as he scored Penn State’s first six points. It’s no secret that Stevens loves his mid-range game, and he was able to exploit that weakness from Michigan all game. Then mix in his strong rebounding output and he was clearly Penn State’s MVP for the first half.

There were a few big plays in the first half. Josh Reaves had a stellar block off the backboard after hustling back on the defensive end, but not to be outdone, Payton Banks had a ginormous block himself later in the half. A few big three’s and being solid at the foul line helped maintain Penn State’s first half lead.

Penn State did a great job of limiting Michigan’s open looks on the perimeter early. Outside shooting is a strength of the Wolverines, and Penn State held them to 1-9 shooting from behind the arc in the first half. Penn State also led in some significant categories at the half as well including rebounds and points in the paint. The Nittany Lions went into the locker room up 36-29.

Michigan looked like it was poised to make a big second half run early in the frame as the deficit was cut to as low as three points, but Penn State knocked down some big shots to keep Michigan at bay. A 14-2 run at around the 13 minute mark capped off by three balls from Reaves and Shep Garner helped push Penn State’s lead to double digits.

Michigan then caught fire from deep and it did not look back. The Wolverines kept chipping away in the back end of the second half and eventually captured the lead after a made three and an alley-oop on back-to-back possessions with 3:28 to go. Stevens eventually fouled out with 1:39 left, finishing with 16 points and nine rebounds, and it was basically over after that point.

Garner knocked down a three with four seconds left to cut it to one to give some hope, and fouled to put Michigan on the line. But with no timeouts remaining, Carr had to have a desperation heave from beyond half court to send it to overtime, but it did not fall and Michigan came away with the 72-69 victory.

Penn State really struggled to take care of the basketball late in this game, and that really was the difference maker in this one. It committed 14 turnovers compared to Michigan’s five. Related to that, Michigan outscored Penn State in points off turnovers 20-4, and that is not a recipe for success for Pat Chambers’ squad.

Basketball a lot of times comes down to the turnover battle and foul shots, and in this one, Michigan won in both categories. Despite having more rebounds and points in the paint, it’s tough to win games in the Big Ten having nearly three times the amount of turnovers as your opponent. This has been an issue for Penn State all year and needs to get cleaned up to have a successful Big Ten campaign.

Player Of The Game

Derrick Walton Jr. | Guard | Senior

Walton was huge for the Wolverines down stretch in this game. He didn’t have a fantastic shooting performance, but he scored 12 points in the final nine minutes of the game, including going 6-6 from the line in that stretch with four of those coming in the final minute and a half. Walton finished with 14 points and six rebounds in his clutch game for Michigan.

What’s Next

Penn State will play a “home” game Saturday against Michigan State and star freshman Miles Bridges. The game will be held at the famed Palestra in Philadelphia and is scheduled to tipoff at 1 p.m and can be seen on ESPN.

Photo By: Trevor Hayes
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Dylan Coughlin

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