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Penn State Hoops Defeats Michigan 66-57 In First Round Of Big Ten Tournament

No. 11 seed Penn State men’s basketball (16-16, 9-11 Big Ten) defeated No. 14 seed Michigan (8-24, 3-17 Big Ten) in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament.

The Nittany Lions held off the Wolverines via strong performances from Ace Baldwin Jr. and Zach Hicks. Baldwin tallied 17 points, six assists, and five rebounds, while Hicks dropped 20 points with six three-pointers.

How It Happened

Head coach Mike Rhoades rolled out the same starting lineup that wrapped up the regular season with a win over Maryland this past weekend. The game got underway inside the Target Center with Michigan winning the the opening tip. Dug McDaniel and Hicks traded missed shots on each team’s opening possessions of the game.

Baldwin got the first bucket of the evening but both teams started slow from the field. Following a three made by the Wolverines, Qudus Wahab knocked down one of two at the line to tie it up. Demetrius Lilley checked in for Wahab after the free throw to give the starter a quick breather. Lilley missed his first attempt from the field moments later.

Baldwin went to work in transition on the next possession and Penn State led once again. At the first media timeout, Penn State led 5-3 over the Wolverines. D’Marco Dunn planted himself in the paint and drew a charge out of the break. Lilley laid in an easy right-handed layup while also being fouled on the other end of the floor.

Tarris Reed Jr. answered for Michigan with two points of his own. Both teams had poor possessions offensively during the next few minutes. Wahab built upon the Nittany Lions’ lead at the line. Baldwin made his third layup of the game and Penn State led 11-7 with 10 minutes to play in the first half.

Penn State continued to get things done at the line, with Nick Kern Jr. earning his first points of the night at the charity stripe following a blocking call. Nimari Burnett hit the Wolverines’ first triple of the game in front of his bench and Michigan inched back to within three points. Zach Hicks answered on the other end with a three-ball after an offensive rebound by Baldwin extended the possession.

Out of the under-eight media timeout, Reed dunked over Lilley while being fouled. Puff Johnson drove to the rim on the other end to draw a foul and he hit two free throws. Burnett buried a three from the corner again and it was a two-point game before Wahab connected a mid-range jumper. The shooting struggles persisted for the Nittany Lions, who went empty on their next four possessions.

With it all tied at 20, Hicks drilled a shot from behind the arc to give Penn State its lead back before the last media break. Wahab banked in a hook shot and Hicks swished his third triple of the half to make it a 30-20 game before Michigan head coach Juwan Howard called a timeout.

Wahab went to the free throw line for a one-and-one opportunity but missed the front end with two minutes to go in the opening half. Hicks ended the half with another three-pointer from the wing as the Nittany Lions’ lead grew to 11 points.

Burnett opened the second half with a reverse layup to get Michigan on the board. McDaniel connected on a shot from three-point land and the game was within six points early in the second half. Both teams traded two-point buckets from there before Baldwin rattled in a three to make it 38-31.

After another Wolverine basket, Kern scored on an inbounds play underneath the basket. Reed went to work in the paint against Wahab and scored over the big man. Wahab repaid the favor after being fouled by hitting two free throws. After a strong first half, Hicks hit his first three of the second half, and the Penn State lead was back up to 10 points.

After the under-16 timeout, Hicks showed off his versatility by connecting on an elbow jumper. Burnett answered with a mid-range jumper of his own on the next play. Redd scored over Leo O’Boyle on the Wolverines’ next possession to make the score 47-39.

Michigan cut the lead down to six again after three straight buckets. Penn State regained the momentum with an and-one from Johnson off a beautiful dish from Baldwin. Johnson completed the three-point play after the under-12 timeout.

Baldwin couldn’t connect on a tough jumper a few possessions later and it stayed a 50-44 game. McDaniel went to the rim on a string drive and made the layup to inch closer to the Nittany Lions. Baldwin once again had an answer on the other end of the floor, however, connecting on two free throws after being fouled.

After a few dry possession by both teams, Wahab headed to the line again and the Georgetown transfer hit both shots. Reed and Wahab traded buckets on the next two possessions as both big men traded body blows against each other. The blue and white led 57-48 at the second-to-last media timeout.

Out of the break and as the shot clock expired, Hicks fired off a three that found the bottom of the net. On defense, Baldwin proved why he is the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and stole the ball from Reed. The Michigan big man fouled Baldwin after the play for his fifth foul of the game.

Kern extended the lead from the foul line as the Nittany Lions continued to do damage at the charity stripe. Rhoades and Co. led 63-51 with only four minutes to play in its opening-round matchup. Michigan had multiple chances on the same possession out of the break but nothing could fall as Penn State remained up a dozen.

Wahab built upon its lead at the foul line and in the closing few minutes it looked like Penn State was fully in control. Michigan continued to struggle offensively, going scoreless over a four-minute span before the final minute of play.

Penn State wrapped up the victory in the opening round, 66-57. The Nittany Lions did not play their best game of the season but got the job done in Minnesota.

Takeaways:

  • Hicks can shoot the rock, folks. It took a little bit for everyone to see his shooting ability but the Temple transfer is playing his best ball at the right time. Hicks buried six three-pointers en route to 20 points on the night.
  • Penn State’s defense showed up when the offense was not always clicking. The Nittany Lions forced 15 Michigan turnovers while holding the Wolverines to 34.5% shooting from the field.
  • Live to see another day. Anything can happen in the Big Ten Tournament and all the Nittany Lions need to do is win one game at a time.

What’s Next?

Penn State moves on to the second round of the Big Ten Tournament to face Indiana. Tip-off is slated for 25 minutes after the Ohio State and Iowa game, which starts at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 13, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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About the Author

CJ Gill

CJ is a sophomore from McVeytown, Pennsylvania majoring in broadcast journalism and an associate editor at Onward State. He's a huge Phillies fan, which has its pro and cons come October. You can send all disagreements to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @CJGill14.

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