Well, it’s over. A season that never really got off the ground following Tim Frazier’s achilles injury back in November down in Puerto Rico, came to an end today in Chicago. #7 (but 5th seed) Michigan got a dominant second half on both ends of the floor, pulling away from Penn State for an 83-66 win in the opening round of the Big 10 Tournament.
It was quite a start for Penn State in the opening half, however. Trey Burke hit a 3 off of the opening tip, but that would be it for quite awhile. The Lions responded with a 14-0 run, opening up an 11 point lead just over 5 minutes into the game. Given the energy of each team at that point, you couldn’t help but wonder if PSU could knock off Michigan for the 2nd time in a little over 2 weeks. That would all stop pretty quickly after the Wolverines would rattle off 11 straight to tie the game, and then 5 of the next 7 to ultimately take a lead.
If you were looking for the reason for such a huge momentum swing, you didn’t have to look hard. Michigan’s freshman center Mitch McGary entered off the bench for Jordan Morgan, and his energy level, and aggressive play, seemed to finally wake up the Wolverines. He finished the half with 10 points and 10 rebounds, including several big offensive rebounds. Despite shooting just 35%, Michigan would lead 35-33 at the break, thanks in large part to 17 second chance points. PSU was very good on the offensive end, shooting over 50%, but the failure to control the defensive glass had them behind. Ross Travis, who was key in the upset win at the Jordan Center, did his part with 9 first half rebounds, but they never found an answer for McGary.
PSU was not bad to start the second half either, but the warning signs were there, as they struggled to contain Michigan’s potent offense. They trailed just 48-45 at the first media timeout, but by the next, it was 10, and then 16 at the under-8, and the Lions never seemed capable of putting a run together to make it interesting.
Senior Sasa Borovnjak was strong again in his final game for Penn State, scoring 15 points, but just 2 rebounds is indicative of the trouble PSU had on the glass. Newbill lead PSU with 20 points, while Ross Travis finished with his 5th double-double of the season (3 of which came against Michigan) with 12 and 11. Jermaine Marshall was largely invisible with just 8 points on 3 of 13 shooting. Michigan put 5 players in double figures, 2 of whom came off the bench. [Redacted] lead the way with 21.
Penn State caps the season with just a 10-21 record, but was much better down the stretch, gathering 2 wins in their final 4 games, and looking much better in 6 of the final 8. Attention can now turn towards Tim Frazier’s return next fall, in what could be the most dynamic backcourts in the country. Colella and Borovnjak are the known departures, and one more is a certainty to ensure PSU is at the 15 scholarship limit. 4 new freshman will also join the fold next year, giving Chambers the type of depth he has not had in 2 seasons.
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