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Penn State Hoops Goes Cold, Falls To No. 2 Michigan 68-55

Penn State (7-7, 0-3 Big Ten) fell to No. 2 Michigan (14-0, 3-0 Big Ten) on Thursday night at the Crisler Center. Despite double-doubles from Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins, the Nittany Lions couldn’t find any offense consistency from the rest of their squad.

How It Happened

The first five minutes were relatively sloppy for both teams, as they combined for only seven points and six turnovers out of the gate. Lamar Stevens broke the Nittany Lions out of the slump with baskets on consecutive possessions, giving Penn State an early 7-6 lead.

From there, Michigan’s Jordan Poole took matters into his own hands. The sophomore hit a step-back three over John Harrar, followed by a behind the back assist which gave the Wolverines a six point lead. With 10:52 remaining in the half, the Nittany Lions were shooting a mere 27 percent.

Mike Watkins gave Penn State a boost off the bench with an old-fashioned three point play, making the Michigan lead 15-10. Just a few minutes later, the Philadelphia native showed his defensive prowess by swatting freshman phenom Ignas Brazdeikis.

With just under six minutes left in the opening frame, Penn State went on a 6-0 run led by Watkins and freshman Rasir Bolton. After Bolton cashed in on back-to-back buckets, the big man took it coast to coast for an emphatic one-handed slam.

As the halftime buzzer sounded, it was clear that the game would be decided on the defensive end. Michigan led 25-20, with neither team scoring above a 36 percent clip. Mike Watkins had a game-high eight points on 3-for-6 shooting to pace the Nittany Lions.

Michigan raced out to an 13-4 run to start the second half, as Penn State failed to take care of the ball. Not only that, but the Nittany Lions couldn’t find any consistent scoring option outside of Mike Watkins. One bright spot was an alley-oop slam from Lamar Stevens, but is was an ugly start to the half other than that.

Stevens broke into double figures with an and-one with 8:19 remaining, as the Wolverine lead shrunk to ten. Another tough finish by No. 11 on the next possession quieted down the Crisler Center crowd, with Michigan forced to call a timeout.

But Charles Matthews answered the challenge, splashing a three and playing lockdown defense that all but sealed Penn State’s fate. The Nittany Lions finished the night shooting an abysmal 1-for-14 from downtown, and couldn’t make enough plays down the stretch to keep up with the undefeated Wolverines.

Takeaways

  • The Nittany Lions looked lost on offense for most of this game, and couldn’t find any consistency outside of Stevens and Watkins. If the team wants a chance at the NCAA Tournament, Penn State needs more backcourt production.
  • 18 turnovers by Penn State played a major part in the loss as well. Despite Michigan’s stifling defense, the team can’t be so careless with the ball if they expect to compete with some of the nation’s best.
  • In an otherwise ugly game, the interior defense looked superb at times. The duo of Watkins and Reaves kept the Nittany Lions in it for a while, but had a hard time keeping up with Michigan’s sharpshooters down the stretch.

What’s Next

The Nittany Lions return home to face No. 22 Wisconsin on January 6. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 and will be broadcasted on Big Ten Network.

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About the Author

Austin Smith

Austin Smith is a junior broadcast journalism major. He grew up in New Jersey and is a writer for Onward State. He specializes in football, basketball, and the New York Knicks.

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