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Penn State Basketball: Spartans Handle Nittany Lions As Program Looks Ahead

by on March 09, 2017 4:47 PM

There isn't much to unpack when it comes to Penn State's lopsided 78-51 loss to Michigan State on Thursday afternoon in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.

For one, the Spartans shot 49 percent from the floor while Penn State hit just 29 percent, going 4-of-15 from beyond the arc. As such the game was never all that close after an early 5-5 tie. Michigan State plodded ahead and the Nittany Lions struggled to stay on track, by the time Penn State's 12-3 run late in the first half cut the Spartan lead to single digits it was almost too late. Michigan State responded in kind and took a 45-27 lead into the half assuring everyone that it was, in fact, too late.

The second 20 minutes of play were more of the same. Where Penn State outworked and outplayed Michigan State in Philadephia a few months ago, this was a Spartan team rounding into its usual early March form, dominating the glass and executing a balanced offense.

Sometimes the game isn't complicated, the team that makes more shots wins and that was really all it took on Thursday.

By the game's end Michigan State had racked up 19 assists, 16 fast break points and 11 second-chance points. Every category was dominated by the team from East Lansing, with very few bright spots for the Nittany Lions.

Payton Banks went 0-for-5 from the floor. Lamar Stevens' 16 points on 7-of-18 shooting were the only truly effective outing for Penn State and the majority of his points came in the second half. Mike Watkins followed up his outstanding performance on Wednesday with six points, five rebounds and just a single block.

In truth, Thursday's result didn't really matter. Penn State was lucky to have extended its season by a day to begin with and the number of lessons learned this year have reached their max.

So it's what happens in the next 365 days that will determine the direction of Penn State basketball, a program that has come far in the past five years but finds itself perpetually close but not yet there.

There won't be much room for error when the 2017-18 season begins, nor should there be. That being said if Penn State's already excellent freshmen continue their upward trend there is no reason to think higher expectations can't be met with better results.

For now it's a matter of regrouping.

The good news for fans is that Carr, the leader of the young trio, seems content to continue what he has stared.

"I knew when i came here this wasn’t going to be an overnight process of us just being one of the best teams in the Big Ten my first year," Carr said earlier this week. "Everything is a process, you don’t just jump into something and make it in one day. I knew coming in here it wasn’t going to be all roses and giggles, there were going to be some tough times and we were going to have to get through some things, but I would say that I’m definitely willing to put in the time and effort that this turns out the way we all want it to be."

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