The Michigan State Spartans entered Wednesday night with a 3 – 2 record in conference play and on the heels of a second loss to the Maryland Terrapins on the season.
Penn State entered the Breslin Center riding a five-game losing streak in the Big 10 after starting the season with an impressive 12 – 1 record in non-conference play.
With both teams coming off a loss in their most recent outing, momentum was up for grabs. Fortunately for the hometown Spartans, they were able to bounce back after their season sweep at the hands of the Terrapins.
Michigan State held on down the stretch, and sent the Nittany Lions to their sixth-straight loss with a 66 – 60 decision on Wednesday night.
The Spartans entered the game as 13-point favourites over the Nittany Lions, but as it happens more often than not, the large spread wasn’t an accurate indication of how this game would play out.
In the early stages of the contest, it looked as though the Spartans were going to run away with the game from the outset. A Matt Costello lay-up at the 14-minute mark gave the Spartans an early 8-point lead.
Penn State was held to just two points for over 7 minutes to open the game, before Brandon Taylor made a three-pointer with 12:18 to play in the opening half.
Michigan State would continue to hold the lead as the first half would wind down. D.J. Newbill would get the Nittany Lions to within 1 point at the 7:10 mark, and Donovan Jack would do the same less than a minute later, but they were never able to claim a lead of their own.
Strong free-throw shooting down the stretch in the first half was the key for the Spartans, as they held the lead from start to finish in the first half.
At the break, the Spartans held a slim 30 – 28 lead over the pesky Nittany Lions. The Spartans were in for another dog fight, and would need to bring everything they had in the second half to avoid an upset loss on their home floor.
The second half started out the same as the first half, with Michigan State scoring an early bucket to push their lead. However, Penn State was not to be intimidated, and stuck around, much like they did in the latter part of the first half.
The Spartans would stretch their lead to four on several occasions, thanks to Branden Dawson and Denzel Valentine, but the Nittany Lions would keep chipping away. Brandon Taylor would go to the line for Penn State and make 1-of-2 free throws at the 12:17 mark, and the game was tied for the first time since it was 0 – 0.
Over the next eight minutes, the game would see six more ties, but the Nittany Lions would never be able to take a lead of their own. Michigan State always had an answer on the offensive end, never allowing Penn State to gain any momentum.
At the 4:51 mark, the game saw its 7th tie score, at 51-all. In a blink of an eye, the Spartans capitalized on a technical foul to the Nittany Lions, a D.J. Newbill turnover and a Newbill missed lay-up to push their lead back to 8 points. Valentine and Bryn Forbes each scored 3 points in the stretch to keep the Spartans in front.
The rest of the game was never in question, as Michigan State used strong free throw shooting down the stretch to keep their lead and come away with a win.
Penn State put up a valiant effort, but suffered yet another loss in conference play. The Spartans came away with a hard-fought 66 – 60 victory in front of their home crowd.
On the Penn State sideline, D.J. Newbill led all scorers in the game, pouring in 27 points in a losing effort. Brandon Taylor added in 10 points, and Shep Garner added in 9 points of his own.
For Michigan State, they used a balanced scoring attack to top the Nittany Lions. Five players scored in double digits for the green and white on Wednesday. Branden Dawson (12 points, 10 rebounds), Gavin Schilling (11 points, 10 rebounds), Denzel Valentine (11 points), Travis Trice (10 points), and Matt Costello (10 points) all paced the Spartans.
The game was won and lost on the glass, where Michigan State held a 39 – 26 advantage in terms of rebounding. Michigan State’s ability to rebound effectively spelled the end for the Nittany Lions.
The Penn State Nittany Lions (12 – 7, 0 – 6) will have to wait at least one more game for their first conference win of the season. Their next chance will come on Saturday when they welcome Rutgers to town.
For the Michigan State Spartans (13 – 6, 4 – 2), they find themselves in the thick of things near the top of the Big Ten standings after six games. They can take a big step forwards with a win on Saturday when they go on the road to take on Terran Petteway, Shavon Shields, and the rest of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.