It’s usually a bummer when both of the team’s seniors are injured and unavailable to play on senior night, but at least in Penn State’s case, having Billy Oliver and Cammeron Woodyard on the sideline allowed some of the team’s future to shine in what looked early on to be a bludgeoning at the hands of Michigan.
Michigan loves to shoot three-pointers, but Pat Chambers did not seem to have his team prepared for the long range onslaught in the first half. The Wolverines came out hot, but Penn State was able to match them at first. Jermaine Marshall hit on his first two three-point attempts and Tim Frazier helped force turnovers on two consecutive Michigan possessions to give State an 11-7 lead early on.
However, Michigan kept firing, and when it wasn’t hitting from deep it was getting easy pick-and-roll layups thanks to some shoddy defense by Jon Graham. For the first half, Michigan shot 7 of 10 from beyond the arc and 14 of 20 overall. Particularly troublesome for the Lions was Evan Smotrycz, whose three-point prowess from the forward position gave Graham fits. Smotrycz would have 12 points at halftime but thankfully only 17 for the entire game.
Penn State only trailed 39-28 after the first half because their 36% field goal shooting was balanced out by 7 offensive rebounds and 4 of 7 three-point shooting. It turns out the offensive rebounds would keep State in the game for the long haul. Despite being outshot for the game 60% to 40%, the Lions only lost by 6 points because of their 15 to 4 advantage in the offensive rebounding department.
The second half would start out with more of the same. On one possession, Penn State grabbed three of its own misses but failed to score. State would get the lead down to 9, but then Michigan rolled off a 12-2 run that culminated with Smotrycz hitting yet another three with 11:24 to go.
Finally, as Michigan’s seemingly bottomless three-point well started to dry up, Penn State’s offense came to life. Marshall and Ross Travis combined for 11 points on a lightning quick 13-0 Nittany Lion run that left the home team down just 56-50 with over 5 minutes remaining.
The magic appeared to be over when Trey Burke saved a completely hapless Michigan possession from disaster by nailing a three-pointer while being fouled. The resulting four-point play stretched the lead up to 10, but then, incredibly, Trey Lewis pulled the same trick for State at the other end. We’ll all watch a lot of basketball before we see four-point plays on consecutive possessions again, and what seemed a few minutes ago like a snoozer was turning into a thrilling basketball game.
Of course, though, things did not end well for Penn State. Marshall hit a mid-range jumper with 2:40 left to bring PSU within 4 points, but after Stu Douglass clanked a three-point attempt for Michigan, Frazier rushed a layup on the ensuing possession and the Lions lost their last chance to draw closer. The teams would trade buckets, but then, with 41 seconds left, Tim Hardaway, Jr. pulled up from 10 feet away and sank a jump shot to make it 66-60. Jermaine Marshall responded with his own leaning 10-footer, but it rattled out and Burke’s next pair of free throws sealed the deal.
Nittany Lion Reviews
It was another game in which Penn State tried really, really hard and still lost. As I hinted at before, though, the game wasn’t without its bright spots. Marshall had a spectacular career night with 27 points on 10 of 18 shooting with 8 rebounds to boot. In the midst of that 13-0 run that gave us so much hope, Marshall drove right through the Michigan defense and threw down a spectacular dunk that would have put the crowd into berserker mode had the student not been on spring break. It was every bit the breakout game I was hoping would come from him and much, much more. I remember Tim Frazier starting elevating his game like this at the end of last year’s campaign, so there’s hope that Marshall reaches a new level next season.
Ross Travis was another dude who played completely out of his mind. I’ve noticed flashes of his potential since he first stepped on the floor, but today with Oliver and Woodyard on the bench and a soft Michigan frontcourt to bully, he really got to shine. Travis grabbed 5 offensive rebounds, which helped lead to 15 points on 5 of 5 shooting. I was also impressed by Travis’s free throw stroke, which was very smooth for a big man. He got to show it off by going 5 of 7 from the charity stripe.
Frazier was really bothered by Trey Burke’s excellent defense the whole game and he went just 4 of 16 from the field with 11 points. Of course, the Lion MVP still managed 5 assists and a handful of great defensive plays that helped PSU stay in the game.
While Travis was shining, Graham seemed to regress with a clunking 1 for 7 performance with 3 turnovers and no rebounds. Despite this and the weakness of Michigan’s frountcourt, Sasa Borovnjak only got on the court for 16 minutes and didn’t really get the chance to do anything. I thought I saw him get good positioning on Michigan center Jordan Morgan a few times, but his teammates were reluctant to pass him the ball.
Regrading the rest of the Lions:
- Matt Glover was surprisingly active with 4 offensive rebounds and 8 total. He even attempted three shots, but they were all no good.
- Trey Lewis played 21 minutes and was called on to defend Burke for most of that time. On offense, he only made one bucket besides the huge four-point play and finished with 6 points.
- Chambers may have finally given up on Collela, who played 8 minutes and did not record any stats at all. Club 8 Trill!
For Michigan, Smotrycz did not do all of the damage. Burke tormented the Lions for 19 points on 6 of 10 shooting, as he continues to be one of the best players in the Big Ten. Hardaway, Jr. added 13 points, but also turned the ball over 5 times. Morgan led Michigan with 5 rebounds, but he did next to nothing on offense and fell asleep during the Marshall dunk play on defense. Douglass led Michigan with 6 assists and also added 9 points. Zack Novak put in 11 points, but fouled out in only 25 minutes.
Next up is the Big Ten tournament. Penn State is the number 12 seed because they lost some sort of tiebreaker with Nebraska despite shellacking it the last time the two teams met. Indiana will be the first round opponent and Jermaine Marshall will likely need to catch fire again in order for Penn State to keep pace with the explosive Hoosiers offense. At least there’s one more game, right?
And for Billy Oliver and Cammeron Woodyard, thanks for the memories!