Penn State begins their 6 game gauntlet of a stretch run in the Big 10 with a trip to Ann Arbor for a date with the 4th ranked Michigan Wolverines. Things get underway at Crisler Center at noon on BTN.
THE LAST TIME OUT
PSU’s first Big 10 conference win of the season seeemed to be within reach, as the Lions put together their best offensive performance in a month. Penn State got 26 points from D.J. Newbill, 14 from Sasa Borovnjak, and 14 more (plus 10 assists) from Jermaine Marshall, and matched their conference high mark of 72 points. But defense, rebounding, and some ill-timed free throw misses (and a make) from Marshall ultimately did them, falling to the Hawkeyes 74-72. PSU missed 2 chances to tie or take the lead late, but a Newbill 3 was just long, and Marshall’s driving layup attempt was blocked. The night was not a total loss, as Patrick Chambers honored his pledge of donating $10 to THON for every student in attendance, delivering a check for $14,200 to event organizers on Friday afternoon, prior to his teams departure to Michigan.
ABOUT THE WOLVERINES
Michigan has been among the nations elite all season, opening the year at #5, and rising to the top spot in the AP Poll for one week in late January. They have also hit their first rough patch of the season, riding a 2 game losing streak into Sunday’s contest. A desperation 3 at the end of regulation sent them to OT in Madison last weekend, a game they ultimately lost 65-62, before getting run out of the Breslin Center by Tom Izzo’s fast charging Spartans 75-52 on Tuesday night. On paper, it would appear a home date with an 0-12 Nittany Lions squad is just what the doctor ordered. The Wolverines are lead by perhaps the top guard duo in the country, sophomore point guard Trey Burke (no, we’re not going there), and junior Tim Hardaway, Jr. Burke could be the favorite for player of the year, averaging over 18 points and 7 assists per game. Hardaway adds 15 points. Freshmen Nick Stauskas and Glen Robinson III both average double figures, with Stauskas shooting nearly 50% from three. As a team, Michigan shoots over 40% from downtown. Another of Coach Beilein’s talented freshmen, Mitch McGary, has emerged in recent games, taking advantage of more playing time due to Jordan Morgan’s ankle injury.
It’s hard to see how Penn State can keep this close. Michigan has been amongst the most prolific offensive clubs in the country, and Penn State quite simply does not have the athletes to hang with them on the defensive end. Combine that with Michigan’s 2 game losing streak, and especially their humiliation against the rival Spartans on Tuesday, it does not exactly look promising for PSU. The Lions, most notably D.J. Newbill, need to shoot at least as well as they did on Thursday against Iowa, while at the same time controlling the tempo, and keeping Michigan from making this a track meet. I don’t think either of those happen, and the home team runs away with this one, quickly.
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