Penn State’s Season Ends with Loss to Michigan
A strong start was not enough to stop Penn State’s season from coming to an end at the hands of the No. 6 Michigan Wolverines in the first round of the Big Ten tournament at the United Center in Chicago.
The 5th-seeded Wolverines (26-6, 13-6) quickly overcame a 14-3 deficit to defeat the Nittany Lions (10-21, 2-17) 83-66. The early lead fueled by 8 points from Sasa Borovnajk had many thinking another upset could be in order, but Michigan quickly responded with an 11-0 run of their own to even up the score.
Michigan would go on to open up as large as a nine-point lead when Nik Stauskas knocked down a three point shot with three minutes to go in the first half, but as usual, the Nittany Lions would not go away quietly. Two D.J. Newbill jumpers with a three pointer from Nick Colella sandwiched in between helped Penn State close the half on a 7-0 run, only trailing 35-33.
Jermaine Marshall, who struggled most of the game scoring only 8 points on 3-14 shooting, banked home his lone three early in the second half to tie the score at 39. For the next four minutes of play, the Wolverines would hold a slim lead before a 12-0 run by the Wolverines broke the game open. It started with a Trey Burke jumper and snowballed from there as the Nittany Lions went scoreless for more than three minutes before Brandon Taylor finally snapped the drought on the back end of two free throws.
A comeback in the final 10 minutes was not to be this time around as the Wolverines opened up as large as a 19-point lead and cruised to victory behind 21 points from Burke and a double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds) from freshman Mitch McGary.
Newbill closed out a strong first season in blue and white with 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists while Borovnajk ended his career with an impressive 15 points on 7-9 shooting. Ross Travis (12 points, 11 rebounds) recorded his third double-double against Michigan in three games this year, but all of it was not enough to overcome a talented Wolverines squad that adjusted well in the second half, outscoring the Nittany Lions 48-33.
Michigan goes on to play Wisconsin tomorrow and is headed for a high seed in the NCAA tournament while the 12th seeded Nittany Lions head back to Happy Valley, losing in the first round of the conference tournament for the second straight season.
While wins were few and far between, the Nittany Lions’ never quit attitude and improved play over the final month of the season provide evidence that brighter days are ahead. Pat Chambers’ squad likely only loses Borovnjak and Colella while inheriting Pitt transfer John Johnson and some key recruits in Geno Thorpe, Julian Moore, and Graham Woodward. The return of Tim Frazier to team up with Marshall and Newbill should give the Nittany Lions one of the better backcourts in the conference.
Early exits and the lowest seed in the Big Ten tournament could soon be a thing of the past.