Poor first half dooms Penn State in loss to No. 6 Spartans
Penn State was outclassed 71-56 by No. 6 Michigan State on Sunday in a game the Spartans controlled from beginning to end.
The Nittany Lions came out of the first half down 40-24, but cut the lead to 10 points early in the second with the help of three made free throws and an electrifying dunk from Josh Reaves. But, two Matt McQuaid 3-pointers within a minute gave the Spartans a 49-33 advantage with just over 13 minutes left.
The Nittany Lions wouldn’t get that close again.
A 41-28 rebounding edge for Michigan State and strong defense kept the Nittany Lions on their heels all game. Penn State was forcing up shots early and fell behind 10 points just over eight minutes into the game.
“I thought we were going to come out and compete and Michigan State took it to us,” Penn State head coach Pat Chambers said after the game.
Michigan State’s junior big man Nick Ward led the team with a double-double, going for 16-11-1, as the Spartans spread the wealth with eight different scorers against the Nittany Lions. Penn State failed to get any bench points.
“He’s a big body, I mean long arms,” Penn State senior guard Josh Reaves said about the challenges of playing against Ward. “He knows how to use his body well.”
Penn State’s scoring was led by Lamar Stevens with 20 points while Myles Dread, Reaves and Mike Watkins each posted 11.
Dread looked as if he might have suffered a serious left leg injury after getting tangled up running for a loose ball during the second half. Chambers was irate that there was no foul and Dread had to be helped to the locker room.
But, a couple minutes after the tense moment, Dread managed to come back into the game without any noticeable limp or restriction.
“Kid’s a warrior, absolute warrior,” Chambers said. “He’s got a Big Ten body, he’s ready to go.”
Though Penn State suffered the blowout loss, Chambers said his team played better in the second half. The team combined for eight free throws in last 20 minutes – more than the two in the first half – and shot more than 10 percent better from the field.
“I challenged our guys to win the second half, and they did that,” Chambers said.
With this result, Michigan State starts a road-heavy stretch of its season with its 10th win in a row and preserves its undefeated Big Ten record.
The loss extends Penn State’s Big Ten losing streak to nine games. The Lions’ last conference win came almost 11 months ago to the then No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes.
Penn State falls to 7-10 on the season - 0-6 in the Big Ten - and hasn’t yet won in the new year.
The defending NIT champion Nittany Lions face the seventh-hardest schedule in the NCAA this season and played three of their last four games against ranked opponents. A matchup with unranked Iowa on Wednesday will provide another chance for Pat Chambers and crew to pick up a much-needed win.
Chambers said it falls on himself and the upperclassmen on Penn State to provide an example for the final 14 games of the Big Ten regular season.
“We need our young guys to step up because they’re playing big time minutes and impact the game however that is,” Stevens said. “We’ll just try to keep motivating, just try to keep teaching them what level you have to compete at in the Big Ten to win.”
Tyler Olson is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and political science. To contact him, email email@example.com.