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Penn State Basketball: Second Half Pushes Michigan State Past Penn State 79-63

by on January 01, 2014 10:30 AM

In the first conference game of the season, Penn State fans were going to finally get a chance to see how their Nittany Lions stacked up against one of the nations best. More importantly, how Penn State looked as a team at this juncture in the season.

Conclusion? A work in progress.

Penn State opened the game like it had all year, shooting well out of the gate and taking an early lead. The Nittany Lions led by 8 with 15 minutes to go in the first half behind Brandon Taylor and DJ Newbill's effective play in the game's opening stages. Penn State would open up an 11 point lead with 11:05 to go in the first half as the Nittany Lions fought off the Spartans, hitting 7 three-pointers and playing strong defense.

Michigan State took a two-point lead with just over five minutes to play in the first half but Penn State punched back to take a 12-point lead into the final 1:12 of the opening stanza. Michigan State's quick surge cut it to only 7 as Brandon Dawson banked in a floater as time expired in the half.

But as the second half began, Michigan State showed why the Spartans are one of the best teams in the nation and ranked No. 5 in land, exploding for an early 10-0 run before a Penn State timeout.

Struggling to hit open looks and generate offense against a tenacious Spartan defense, Penn State scored only 16 points in the second half. Michigan State continued to hit shots and flex its muscles an eventual 19-point lead. Penn State wasn't out of the game right away though, down only one-point with 13:32 to go in the second half. The close margin didn't last long though as Michigan State pushed the lead back out to 17 with just over 7-minutes to play.

"I thought we had some good looks early on there in the first four minutes," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. "We missed some shots, they played a little bit harder and I think we let missing shots dictate our effort, something I talk about all the time. It’s unfortunate, because the team that I envisioned played in the first half.  We can be a really good team and compete in this league. Michigan State is where they are because that is what they do to you. They score in spurts and the best thing you can do is try to kill that spurt and we did, it was 50-47, we got to the line and missed free throws.  When you’re trying to stop the momentum and stop the run, I thought we did everything we were supposed to do; we just didn’t convert."

"This has to be a learning experience game, we have to learn a lot from this, because we have a chance, we do, but mentally, we have to get way tougher.  They were, they were tougher and they showed it.  I felt like we had poor body language and did things I hadn’t seen in a while. That has to change, that starts with our leaders and our captains have to do a better job."

Penn State was led by Brandon Taylor's 18-points and DJ Newbill who added 17. Graduate guard Tim Frazier struggled and was often forced into bad looks making only 3-of-12 attempts.

Overall the Nittany Lions showed what kind of team they could be, but also showed that for as far as Penn State has come this season that they still have that much left to go.

On Tuesday night, it really was a tale of two halves.

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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