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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Go Cold, Fall to No. 2 Michigan

by on January 03, 2019 10:48 PM

Penn State (7-7, 0-3 Big Ten) fell 68-55 to No. 2 Michigan (14-0, 3-0 Big Ten) on Thursday night at the Crisler Center. Despite double-doubles from Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins, the Nittany Lions couldn’t find any offense consistency from the rest of their squad.

How It Happened

The first five minutes were sloppy for both teams, as they combined for only seven points and six turnovers out of the gate. Lamar Stevens broke the Nittany Lions out of the slump with baskets on consecutive possessions, giving Penn State an early 7-6 lead.

From there, Michigan’s Jordan Poole took matters into his own hands. The sophomore hit a step-back three over John Harrar, followed by a behind-the-back assist which gave the Wolverines a six-point lead. With 10:52 remaining in the half, the Nittany Lions were shooting a mere 27 percent.

Mike Watkins gave Penn State a boost off the bench with an old-fashioned three point play, making the Michigan lead 15-10. Just a few minutes later, the Philadelphia native showed his defensive prowess by swatting freshman phenom Ignas Brazdeikis.

With just under six minutes left in the half, Penn State went on a 6-0 run led by Watkins and freshman Rasir Bolton. After Bolton cashed in on back-to-back buckets, the big man took it coast to coast for an emphatic one-handed slam.

As the halftime buzzer sounded, it was clear that the game would be decided on the defensive end. Michigan led 25-20, with neither team scoring above a 36 percent clip. Watkins had a game-high eight points on 3-for-6 shooting to pace the Nittany Lions.

Michigan went on a 13-4 run to start the second half, as Penn State failed to take care of the ball. The Nittany Lions also couldn’t find any consistent scoring option outside of Mike Watkins. One bright spot was an alley-oop slam from Lamar Stevens, but is was an ugly start to the half otherwise.

Stevens broke into double figures with an and-one with 8:19 remaining, as the Wolverine lead shrunk to 10. Another tough finish by No. 11 on the next possession quieted down the Crisler Center crowd, with Michigan forced to call a timeout.

But Charles Matthews answered the challenge, splashing a three and playing lockdown defense that all but sealed Penn State’s fate. The Nittany Lions finished the night shooting an abysmal 1-for-14 from three, and couldn’t make enough plays down the stretch to keep up with the undefeated Wolverines.


  • The Nittany Lions looked lost on offense for most of this game, and couldn’t find any consistency outside of Stevens and Watkins. If Penn State wants to mount a run in the Big Ten, it needs more backcourt production.
  • Eighteen turnovers by Penn State played a major part in the loss as well. Despite Michigan’s stifling defense, the team can’t be so careless with the ball if they expect to compete with some of the nation’s best.
  • In an otherwise ugly game, the interior defense looked superb at times. The duo of Watkins and Reaves kept the Nittany Lions in it for a while, but had a hard time keeping up with Michigan’s sharpshooters down the stretch.

What’s Next

The Nittany Lions return home to face No. 22 Wisconsin on Sunday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and air on the Big Ten Network.


Austin Smith is a writer for Onward State and a Penn State broadcast journalism student.
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