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Staff Predictions: No. 20 Penn State Hoops vs. No. 16 Michigan State

Penn State men’s basketball (21-8, 11-7 Big Ten) is set to take on Michigan State (20-9, 12-6 Big Ten) during senior night at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3 at the Bryce Jordan Center.

The Nittany Lions have dropped three of their last four contests, while the Spartans have won their last three and currently sit at second place in the Big Ten. This game, along with it being the final home performance for players such as Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins, will have plenty of conference tournament implications.

A win would be key for Penn State in sliding into the top four of the Big Ten standings. While Pat Chambers’ squad took down Michigan State on the road in their last meeting, our staff has mixed feelings about whether or not the Nittany Lions can do it again on Tuesday.

Gabe Angieri: Michigan State 76, Penn State 70

Having lost three out of its last four games, including a home loss to Illinois, Penn State is going through a rough patch that has dropped it to No. 20 in the AP Top 25.

Even with Myreon Jones back last game, the Nittany Lions couldn’t get anything going on the offensive end. Michigan State, on the other hand, has won three in a row, including an impressive 78-66 win on the road against Maryland. The Spartans’ best player, Cassius Winston has three straight 20-point games and is leading the Spartans on this hot streak. While I expect the Nittany Lions to be a little bit better offensively now that Jones has a game under his belt, I don’t think it will be enough to take down Michigan State.

Katie Braun: Penn State 77, Michigan State 73

This is perhaps the biggest game of the season for the Nittany Lions, especially since they seem to have hit cold stretch at a bad time. With it being senior night, Lamar Stevens & Co. will have plenty of support from the crowd. This should also be Myreon Jones’ first game back at home since returning from illness, so the Nittany Lions will need to hope he finds his groove early in the game. 

Penn State won the previous game against Michigan State 75-70 thanks to excellent defense and three-point shooting. Penn State held the Spartans to only one double-digit scorer and forced 15 turnovers. If the Nittany Lions can repeat their previous defensive performance and shooting, this game will be a lock for them and hopefully get them rolling as they head into an important stretch.

Trevor Grady: Penn State 79, Michigan State 78

The Nittany Lions will try to match their highest Big Ten win total in school history, set in 1995-96 with a 12-6 record in Big Ten play. It is senior night, and that means it will be a super emotional and high-paced game at the beginning. Lamar Stevens will try to play his best basketball yet in his final game at the BJC. Not to mention the fact that he is only 40 points away from passing Talor Battle as Penn State basketball’s all-time leader in career points.

It’s been clear in this rough four-game stretch that the Nittany Lions need another scoring option beside Stevens. Myreon Jones was that clear option before an illness kept him out for six games. Jones will add 14 crucial points and Stevens will walk off the BJC court for the final time posting a career-high 34 points. Jamari Wheeler will hold Cassius Winston in check just enough for the Nittany Lions to come away with the one-point victory.

Mitch Stewart: Michigan State 73, Penn State 68

These two teams are heading in opposite directions as of late, as the Spartans come to town riding a three-game winning streak, while Penn State has lost three of its last four games (and was fortunate to hold on against Rutgers). The Nittany Lions have been exposed a bit recently for not having a consistent third option behind Lamar Stevens and Myreon Jones, especially when Jones was out with an illness.

Myles Dread, Izaiah Brockington, and Seth Lundy have all shown flashes or had standout performances here and there, but Penn State really needs one of those three players to step up as Jones looks to get back to full strength.

The Spartans heating up entering March is a dangerous sight, with a legendary coach in Tom Izzo and plenty of experience in the lineup. Unless Jones plays at the level he was at before his illness, I think that Sparty will escape the Bryce Jordan Center with another momentum-building win as they battle Maryland for the Big Ten regular season title.

Ryan Parsons: Penn State 67, Michigan State 66

I’m anticipating a super close, super fun, super heart-racing game at the BJC tonight. It looks like a decent amount of the crowd is sold, which is a reassuring sign for a Tuesday night game. Hopefully fans can bring the juice, and help Penn State avoid a flat second half like against Rutgers, and come out of the gates swinging. Myreon Jones should be able to work his way back to his original sharpshooting form, and help Penn State put points on the board.

John Harrar and Jamari Wheeler played lock-down defense against the Spartans last time around, and will need to do so again to ensure a Nittany Lion victory. Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins will also be extra motivated to play well in front of the crowd during the duo’s last ever home game, similar to how Siyeh Frazier registered a career-high last Thursday during her last home game in a Lady Lion uniform. All in all, I think Penn State will be able to scrape together a victory in a barnburner.

Will Pegler: Penn State 75, Michigan State 66

There’s no doubt that this is a massive game for the Nittany Lions. A win would greatly help their chances of sliding into the Big Ten Tournament as a top-four seed, thus getting an automatic bid at the quarterfinals. A loss would only push them further down the Big Ten ladder.

There’s no doubt that the importance of tomorrow night’s game will be clear in the mind of Lamar Stevens in his final performance at the BJC, and I think he’ll step up to the challenge. The senior will obviously get plenty of attention from Michigan State’s defense, but when he can’t score, expect Myreon Jones to step back into his role as a consistent producer. He struggled a bit in his first game back against Iowa, but I think he’ll hit more than a few big shots on Tuesday night.

The combination of Stevens and Jones along with a few big defensive plays to swing the momentum towards the end will be enough to give Penn State a key Senior Night victory.

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