- Daily Collegian
By Colleen Thomas, Daily Sports Editor
Published February 27, 2013
After No. 1 Indiana was upset by Minnesota on Tuesday night, the Michigan men’s basketball team was back in control of its own destiny to win a Big Ten Championship. Penn State, winless in the Big Ten, was the first opponent the fourth-ranked Wolverines had to face on the way to a potential title.
But a 20-8 run by the Nittany Lions in the second half erased No. 4 Michigan’s 15-point lead, and Penn State took control of the last four minutes of the game to seal the 84-78 shocker.
“I think what you saw (Wednesday) was why we all love college basketball,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “I’ve been seeing this coming from (Penn State coach) Pat Chambers’ team. They’re really getting used to playing well together, they make every extra pass, took four or five charges on us today.
“They’re playing great team basketball, and they beat us fair and square. And in the last ten minutes, (they) really outplayed us.”
Though the game was close at half — Michigan (10-5, 23-5) took a 39-36 lead into the locker room — an early second-half push had the Wolverines in control of the game. Four consecutive layups extended Michigan’s lead to 11 points early in the second half and forced the Nittany Lions (1-14 Big Ten, 9-18 overall) to take a timeout to halt the momentum.
And it worked.
Penn State went on a run of its own to bring the game within reach, but a 17-6 run gave the Wolverines a 66-51 lead with just over 10 minutes to play. But instead of closing the game with ease, just as Michigan did against Illinois on Sunday, the Nittany Lions didn’t give up on their senior night. Penn State had lost eight of its previous 14 conference games by less than 10 points.
Led by Jermaine Marshall’s game-high 25 points, Penn State chipped away at the lead, tying the game at 74 with 4:23 left. Two ensuing free throws gave the Nittany Lions the permanent lead.
“I just think we failed to execute down the stretch,” said redshirt junior forward Jordan Morgan. “We said it was a four-minute game, it was a four-minute war (at the end of the game). It was 0-0 in the last four minutes.
“It was defense and turnovers that took us out of the game.”
Though junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and sophomore guard Trey Burke had good offensive games, combining for 37 points on 13-of-26 shooting, the duo committed eight of the Wolverines’ 15 turnovers. Burke alone had six giveaways, his season-high, and Penn State turned Michigan’s turnovers into 20 points.
The Nittany Lions also took advantage of a slow Wolverine defense, shooting 47 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range. Marshall led Penn State with a 60-percent clip from beyond the arc.
“I think we were scoring a lot with our transition offense — that was huge — but you can’t run transition offense if you can’t get a stop,” Beilein said. “Whether they hit the three or drove it right to the basket, they were getting easy shots.”
Freshman guard Nik Stauskas added 11 points and a career-high eight rebounds, and Morgan tallied 11 points — his first game in double figures since Jan. 3 against Northwestern. Though he’s been playing infrequently after returning from his injury, Morgan’s presence Wednesday night boosted the Wolverines’ offense.
The Michigan forwards combined for a total of 44 points in the paint and pulled down 37 rebounds, including 14 on the offensive end. Though the Wolverines were able to get the ball down low, they weren’t able to convert offensive rebounds into baskets, scoring just 18 second-chance points.
With the loss, Michigan has now lost its last four games on the road, and all season. The Wolverines have had a tough slate away from home with losses to the Big Ten’s best teams, but Beilein was disappointed the Wolverines couldn’t perform as well against bottom-tier conference opponents.
“If you’re going to be a champion in this league, you really have to be able to complete games, have to beat teams on the road, especially if they’re in the lower end of the (conference),” Beilein said. “This is one of those games we had to have, and we didn’t get it. It will be deflating, yeah … but we have other games to get ready for.”