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Penn State Hoops Can’t Keep Up With Michigan, Falls 79-69

Penn State men’s basketball (11-4, 2-2) fell to Michigan (9-5, 3-0) 79-69. Jalen Pickett led the way with 26 points and nine rebounds, while Seth Lundy chipped in with 16 points himself. They were the only two players for the Nittany Lions to score in double figures.

It was a game of runs, and while there were times Penn State had the advantage, Michigan punched back and usually punched back harder. The Wolverines were very good on defense, and the Nittany Lions could not overcome early offensive woes to make up for it.

How It Happened

Seth Lundy started the Penn State scoring, sinking a quick three. The Wolverines were able to exploit their advantage in the paint early on, especially with Hunter Dickinson in the paint. But Lundy kept making shots from behind the arc, allowing the Nittany Lions to keep up.

Michigan went on a 9-0 run, however, and Penn State could not find the answer on the offensive end. The run was finally broken by Jalen Pickett, but the momentum was fully with the Wolverines. The Nittany Lions also got into a lot of foul trouble early in the game, allowing too many freebies that extended the lead.

Myles Dread hit a major milestone early in the first half. With a three-point basket, he officially scored 1,000 points over the course of his Penn State career. If he couldn’t do it in Happy Valley, the next best place was his home state of Michigan.

The Wolverines went on a three-minute scoring drought, allowing Pickett to will the Nittany Lions back into the game. The issue was the foul trouble. Kebba Njie, Michael Henn, and Evan Mahaffey kept getting beat by Michigan’s size, and they each had to spend extended time on the bench so that they wouldn’t pick up any more fouls.

Dickinson went on a tear near the end of the first half. The Nittany Lions had no answers for him and his playmaking abilities. They also couldn’t buy a basket, until Mahaffey hit a halfcourt buzzer-beater to head into halftime down 42-34.

The scoring started quickly for both teams, each of them exchanging baskets to begin the second half. The Nittany Lions then went on an 11-0 run, highlighted by Andrew Funk getting into a scoring groove and Lundy sinking a step-back three. Pickett tied the game with a great move in the paint, but that’s where everything changed.

The Wolverines went on a 14-0 run to punch back, and any momentum Penn State had left the building. Pickett hit a big floater to end that huge run, but it felt like the game was over midway through the second half. Michigan hit big shots, and Penn State couldn’t even hit the rim.

Just because it felt like it was over, though, doesn’t mean that it was. The Nittany Lions went on a 15-4 run that cut Wolverines’ lead down to three. Both teams traded clutch baskets, but the Wolverines made just a few more clutch shots when they needed to, ending the game on a 7-0 run.

It was a valiant comeback effort, but Penn State couldn’t pull through, losing 79-69.

Takeaways

  • Turnovers were a huge issue for Penn State in this game, which is a surprise since it hasn’t been its Achilles heel this season. Its eight turnovers led to 15 Michigan points, while the Nittany Lions only caused one turnover the entire game. It remains to be seen if it was just Michigan executing the game plan on defense or if it’s a larger systematic issue, but if it’s the latter, they may be in some trouble.
  • Jalen Pickett had a masterful game, but no one else stepped up when it was really needed. Andrew Funk could not make any shot from three, and none of the big men had any success against the likes of Hunter Dickinson. Myles Dread, Kebba Njie, Camren Wynter, and the rest of the role players needed to step up offensively to give some help to Pickett.
  • If anyone needed any proof of how great Pickett is, this game is that proof. He played every second of the game and had a game-high 26 points. He did not have as many assists as usual, but that didn’t stop him from making great reads when he had the opportunity. It was just a great all-around performance.

What’s Next

The Nittany Lions head to the Palestra to take on No. 1 Purdue on Sunday, January 8. The game tips off at 6 p.m. and airs on the Big Ten Network.

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About the Author

Owen Abbey

Owen Abbey is a senior from Annapolis, Maryland, majoring in secondary education and minoring in social justice in education. When he is not writing for the blog, he enjoys rooting for the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens, supporting Penn State basketball and softball, dreaming of all of the ways he would win the TV show "Survivor", and yes mom, actually doing school work. If you would like to talk about sports or "Survivor", the best way to reach out is on Twitter @theowenabbey. All other compliments may be sent to [email protected]

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