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Penn State Hoops Drops Sixth Straight, a 66-60 Heartbreaker to Michigan State

Ignite the bus, again.

Despite 27 points from D.J. Newbill and numerous second half ties, Penn State fell to Michigan State 66-60 Wednesday night at the Breslin Center.

After not scoring for nearly eight minutes early, the Nittany Lions benefitted from only three first half turnovers and a trio of Brandon Taylor threes to trail by only two at the half. A closely contested first 16 minutes of the second period had Penn State down only two at the final media timeout.

But Patrick Chambers was called for a technical foul during the timeout, shifting momentum and the Spartans jumped to an eight point lead with under two minutes to play. The Lions couldn’t respond, and dropped its sixth straight to open Big Ten play, matching its 0-6 conference start from last year before turning things around.

How it Happened

It was a bleak beginning.

Michigan State slammed in an alley-oop 10 seconds into the contest, and Brandon Taylor air-balled a three on the ensuing possession. Penn State didn’t feature a starter over 6-7, allowing the Spartans to score again down low on its second trip down the court. Garner followed with a quick three-point brick — an ugly trend for him early in games recently — and things were off to an unfortunate start.

A Geno Thorpe steal and dunk was Penn State’s only basket in the first eight minutes before a Taylor three fell. Down 8-2 at the first media timeout, Chambers switched to a 2-3 zone to limit Sparty’s three-point shooting. Despite an 0-4 start from Newbill, two Taylor threes had Penn State only trailing 16-13 at the under-eight media timeout. It helped that the Nittany Lions hit 5-7 fields goal during its mid-half run.

Then Newbill started to heat up, scoring two consecutive field goals. A strong drive to the hoop was his first field goal, and two Dononvon Jack foul shots brought Penn State within a point. Shortly after, Brandon Taylor hit his third three of the game (he had three Saturday as well), bringing Penn State within two, 26-24. But the Spartan’s second alley-oop of the half pushed it back to four at the half’s last media timeout.

Devin Foster, who had seen only scarce minutes throughout the year, then chipped in. A slick drive and layup cut the lead back to three. He finished the half with four points and four boards.

The teams traded field goals in the half’s final seconds, and amazingly, despite going almost eight minutes without scoring, Michigan State only took a 30-28 lead into the half. Following a 17 turnover performance to Purdue over the weekend, Penn State only coughed up the ball three times in the first half.

The Spartans opened the half with an easy layup off, but Shep Garner hit a three on the ensuing possession to bring the Lions within a point. It was Garner’s first made basket of the night.

But after only three first half turnovers, the Nittany Lions turned it over three times in the second half’s first four minutes. That didn’t phase Newbill, however, as he hit his first three-pointer right before the 16 minute media timeout to bring Penn State within a point, 35-34. The Lions finished with 13 turnovers for the night.

Moments later, Brandon Taylor hit one of two free throws to tie the game for the first time since the tip, 37-37. Then Foster hit another absolutely ridiculous layup to tie the game.

A Newbill three near the under-eight media timeout again cut down a mini Michigan State spurt, and with 7:49 to play the Lions trailed 46-44, still having not led once.

It was then time for Garner to take the reigns. He hit a difficult jumper off the dribble as the shot clock wound down to tie the game again. Then, following a Michigan State three, the true freshman hit his second trey to once again tie it up. Newbill hit two foul shots after a Michigan State field goal, and Penn State continued to tie, but still could not grab a lead.

But things quickly fell apart when Chambers gathered a technical foul during the game’s final media timeout. Then Newbill coughed up the ball on two straight possessions, and the Spartans took an eight point lead, its largest since early in the first half.

Penn State couldn’t claw back, despite Newbill’s remarkable, if not forced efforts.

Player of the Game

Newbill again paced the Nittany Lions, scoring 27 points. He only shot 3-10 in the first half before taking over in the latter period. While Newbill scored a host of buckets in the second half that saw Penn State tie it multiple times but never grab a lead, it at times seemed like he was trying to do too much, and at two crucial junctures was stripped of possession.

Foster, who played a season-high minutes, netted six points and five rebounds. He didn’t miss a shot. With John Johnson suspended, we’ll likely see more of him, and that could be one of only a few positives as we continue our schlep through the Big Ten season.

Stat of the Game

Ross Travis is not good at foul shots. His 0-2 performance against Michigan State put him at 5-27 for the year. Last year, he hit over 68% from the line.

In fact, free throws may have cost the Nittany Lions the game. A dismal 13-22 showing compared to Michigan State 16-25 (not much better) accounted for at least a three point difference in a close game. And the two foul shots that Chambers allowed after his technical foul clearly energized the Spartans.

Other Notes

  • Newbill became the ninth Penn Stater to score 1,500 career points. Remember, he’s only been with the program for three years.
  • Penn State lost its first six Big Ten games last season before winning three in a row and finishing 6-6 down the stretch.

What’s Next

Penn State hosts Rutgers Saturday at noon at the Jordan Center, another team it lost to but should have beat. After that, it’s a Wednesday night home showdown with Minnesota.

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About the Author

Ben Berkman

State College, PA

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