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5 Takeaways from Penn State’s Loss to Michigan State

Penn State rolled into 2024 hopeful for a Big Ten upset on the road in East Lansing for the program’s third road win ever against the Spartans but came away with a rough 92-61 loss to Michigan State instead. The Nittany Lions are now 7-7 on the year with a Sunday date against Michigan at the Palestra to follow it up. Safe to say Penn State will want to shoot better than 32% from the field when they make the trip to Philadelphia — and safe to say they almost certainly will. In the meanwhile, here are five takeaways from Thursday’s game.

Rough Welcome: Mike Rhoades has a lot of things working against him in his first year on the job but it’s safe to say that nothing welcomes a coach to the Big Ten quite like a trip to East Lansing. Tom Izzo has spent the better part of his career saying nice things about Penn State’s head coach of the day only to turn around and (usually) beat the Nittany Lions, so this was a rite of passage if nothing else. Penn State has won against Michigan State three times since 2016 and has lost four other meetings by fewer than 10 points so if nothing else this was a departure from what is usually an otherwise entertaining game. Historically Penn State has been a pretty competitive against one of the staple programs in the league – not so much on Thursday. This wasn’t the worst loss in the series though, Michigan State won by 37 back in 2008, the largest margin of victory for the Spartans in the series. Rhoades will grow his Big Ten knowledge, and Thursday was definitely a teaching moment. Of note, Micah Shrewsberry lost his first game at Michigan State 80-64, Pat Chambers 77-55, Ed DeChellis 76-58. For his part former head coach Jerry Dunn lost 61-58 in Penn State’s first trip to East Lansing as a member of the Big Ten.

Old Problems Back: Penn State had been shooting the ball better the last few games but a 3-for-29 clip from beyond the arc and a 20-for-62 mark from the field overall showcased how much this team can struggle at times getting the ball into the basket. Take away Kanye Clary’s five makes and Penn State shoots a 15-for-52 clip on the night. 16 turnovers didn’t help any, 20 fast break points surrendered and Michigan State getting 24 points off of turnovers all contributed to a long night for the Nittany Lions. Sometimes it just isn’t your night but Penn State’s issues on Thursday didn’t come as a huge shock.

One Per One: Jameel Brown managed seven minutes of action and seven three point attempts over that span. It was not a great sign for a player who started off the year hot from beyond the arc and saw that cut short by an injury. For his part, Brown’s unofficial replacement in D’Marco Dunn managed just four points and went 0-for-5 from beyond the arc on his own. Dunn had been a solid breakout for Penn State heading into the new year but will need to hit the reset button after Thursday night. Safe to say that goes across the board.

Respectable: For all the things Penn State did poorly on Thursday, it went just -4 on the glass and actually had five more offensive rebounds than Michigan State did. For the most part Michigan State has never been a team known for rebounding like some others in the Big Ten, but considering how much of a weak point rebounding has been for Penn State this season, finishing the game in the same ballpark of its opponent – let alone an opponent that wins by almost 30 – is a bit of a victory in its own right. Rhoades and company will not think about this game with many (if any) good feelings, but this was an area that things weren’t all that bad. As per usual Qudus Wahab led the way with eight boards.

Ace It: Ace Baldwin didn’t make a shot from the field on Thursday in a game that he was also limited to just three assists. Baldwin hasn’t quite been the scorer some Penn State fans were hoping for this season but his do-it-all abilities have otherwise made him a useful part of Penn State’s offense and a feisty aspect of the Nittany Lions’ defense. Thursday wasn’t his night, but if he can’t find his game against the better teams in the Big Ten, it won’t help the Nittany Lions’ chances of pulling off many upsets. Clary continues to be the guy for Penn State’s offense and gets some credit for 21-point outing and 10 made free throws, but Clary isn’t the kind of guy to drag the Nittany Lions across the finish line against teams of this quality. Few are. He’ll need some help.