Penn State Looking for Another Upset of Michigan in B1G Tournament
For the first two months of the Big Ten regular season, Penn State struggled each and every time they took the court.
The story has been told plenty of times before. All-Big Ten point guard Tim Frazier was lost in the fourth game of the year and D.J. Newbill — a shooting guard — was thrust into the point guard position. They lost their first 14 games of conference play, and the Nittany Lions were staring a potential 0-18 season in the face.
Halfway through February, though, the margins of defeat were decreasing. A two-point loss to Iowa. An eight-point loss at Michigan. A five-point loss at Illinois. The Nittany Lions were getting close and on February 27 it happened.
The Michigan team who the Lions battled for 40 minutes ten days earlier in Ann Arbor came into the Bryce Jordan Center with a 23-4 overall record. Penn State stuck to their principles — sharing the basketball, tenacity on defense, diving for loose balls — and with some uncharacteristically hot shooting, they pulled off one of the most improbable upsets of the season, beating No. 4 Michigan, 84-78, and Nittany Nation stormed the court.
And now today, fifteen days later and for the third time in three-and-a-half weeks, Penn State will square off with the No. 6 Wolverines yet again in the first round of the Big Ten tournament at 2:30 p.m. in Chicago on the Big Ten Network.
All-Big Ten honorable mention guards D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall are playing their best ball of the season and will be looking to pull off another shocking upset. The Nittany Lions ended their season with a road victory at Northwestern and a loss at home on a buzzer beater from No. 22 Wisconsin’s Traevon Jackson.
Michigan is coming off a heartbreaking loss to Indiana, 72-71, Sunday in Ann Arbor. Had Michigan pulled out the victory, they would have earned a share of the Big Ten regular season title. The loss dropped Michigan to a number five seed, leading to another matchup with Penn State. The Wolverines boast the highest scoring backcourt in the country in Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. — both first team All-Big Ten selections.
Penn State will need to keep its defensive intensity up for 40 minutes and get offensive contributions from a third or fourth scorer beyond Newbill and Marshall. Penn State’s backcourt duo dropped 42 points in their last meeting, while Ross Travis (15 points, 12 rebounds), Sasa Borovnjak (9 points), Nick Colella (9 points), and Brandon Taylor (7 points) all exceeded their scoring averages.
Penn State will need a similar offensive effort if they hope to shock the college basketball world again.