Penn State (15-18, 6-12 Big Ten) couldn’t follow up its overtime win against Nebraska and advance in the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday, falling to five-seed Michigan State (19-13, 9-8 Big Ten) 78-51 in a brutal contest at the Verizon Center in DC.
Michigan State’s freshmen were the difference, with a trio of them finishing as the Spartans’ top scorers in the win over the Nittany Lions.
How It Happened
Penn State got off to a slow start and there was nothing stopping the Spartans offense. Bad shot selection proved costly for the Nittany Lions — finishing the half 8-33 from the field. On the flip side, Michigan State was 56% shooting — working the ball to the low post for 26 points in the paint.
Freshmen duo Nick Ward and Myles Bridges, who won Big Ten Freshman of the Year, combined for 19 points in the first half and led the rebounding effort for the Spartans that dominated Penn State in the opening half 26-16 on the boards.
The Nittany Lions managed to cut the deficit to nine on an 8-0 run late in the half, but Michigan State finished on a 9-0 run to head into the break with a 45-27 lead.
Michigan State did the damage in the first half and just needed to cruise through the last 20 minutes. Lamar Stevens attempted to make it difficult, putting up 11 points through the first 10 minutes of the second half, but the Spartans continued their success from the field.
It didn’t take much down the stretch for Michigan State to avenge its loss from January to the Nittany Lions. Three Spartans finished in double figures to move past Penn State 78-51.
Player Of The Game
Michigan State’s Freshmen
The Spartans had three freshmen — Ward, Bridges, and Joshua Langford — in double figures. For a Penn State team that claims youth is its greatest asset, Michigan State showed some first-year domination from the trio to earn a spot in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals.
Michigan State advances to play Minnesota on Friday, while it’s likely the end of the season for the Nittany Lions. They’re ineligible for most postseason tournament at-large berths with a sub-.500 record.