Penn State Basketball emerged victorious with a statement program win in East Lansing. Tell me. Is Penn State a basketball school?
Penn State Basketball (17-6, 7-4), notched their third straight Big Ten road win at a hostile Breslin Center. This game featured everything a basketball fan could want in a slugfest between two AP top 25 ranked programs. The lead changed eight times while the score was tied six times. Each head coach received a technical foul. For every run that the Spartans made, the Nittany Lions answered with their own run. At the end of the first half, Penn State led the Spartans 43-37.
At the 5:29 mark of the second half, Cassius Winston drained a three-pointer that put the Spartans up 66-63. Michigan State wouldn’t score again until Aaron Henry made a jump shot with 27 seconds remaining on the clock. The score was 69-68 and Penn State led by a digit. The Spartans were forced to foul and they put standout senior forward Lamar Stevens on the free-throw line with 16 ticks left. Stevens calmly made both sides of the one-and-one to put the Lions up 71-68.
On the play following a Penn State time-out, Winston drove the lane, made a lay-up and got fouled by Curtis Jones, Jr. The score was now 71-70 in favor of Penn State with eleven seconds left and the Big Ten Conference leader in free-throw percentage (86%), at the line with a chance to tie the game. Winston missed the shot.
Lamar Stevens corralled the rebound and was immediately fouled with nine seconds left. Stevens made both free-throws extending Penn State’s lead to 73-70. With four seconds left, Winston had a decent look from deep and took a shot with Wheeler and Watkins desperately trying to contest the shot. It didn’t go in. Curtis Jones, Jr. grabbed the rebound, got fouled and made both shots to bring the final tally to Penn State 75, Michigan State 70.
Penn State Basketball is now 2-23 at Breslin. This was a statement win by Pat Chambers’ program. The Nittany Lions have won four straight games against ranked Big Ten teams. Chambers’ squad is on a five-game winning streak and he is now undefeated against the state of Michigan, this season. The final nine games of the regular-season conference slate will be extremely exciting for Nittany Lions’ fans. The next game is Minnesota at the BJC on Saturday, February 8 and then the Lions travel to West Lafayette to battle the Boilermakers at Mackey Arena, February 11. I will be watching that one from the stands as I bought my tickets as soon as single-game purchases were available on the Purdue website.
Penn State Basketball’s key statistics include grabbing 21 points from 15 Spartan turnovers. Ball control was key to this game as Penn State turned the ball over only eight times. The Lions outscored the Spartans in transition with 17 points compared to 10. Another key factor was no one on the Lions roster was in foul trouble; Harrar, Wheeler, and Dread each had three.
Myreon Jones absolutely torched the Breslin Center nets, going 6-8 from deep scoring 20 points and adding five assists. This young man’s ascension to the starting line-up wouldn’t have been possible if not for another player transferring out of Penn State’s program. This young man obviously put in a ton of work in the off-season and I couldn’t be happier for his success. Jones came to Penn State after originally committing to Memphis and when Tubby Smith left that program, Chambers was able to land him for the Blue and White.
Finally, this Penn State team has played with composure in high-pressure situations. This team has been successful on the road in this year’s Big Ten Conference. That is extremely tough to do. The bottom line for me is this team is playing as a team. Yes, Lamar Stevens scored 24 points tonight, but he is also one of the most unselfish players on the team. He had three assists and he looks for the open man.
At then fifty-second mark, Stevens drew three defenders to him on the left block and passed the ball to an open John Harrar. Harrar got fouled on the missed lay-up and went to the line missing the first and making the second. That made free-throw put the Lions up 69-66. Not only is Lamar unselfish but the team plays unselfishly.
I’m going to enjoy the press that this team receives from this extremely important win. These players deserve to come back to the Bryce Jordan Center that is sold-out and packed with a frenzied crowd. How many teams go into Breslin and win? Of those teams that win in Coach Izzo’s house, are they top-caliber teams? Yes, they are. So is Penn State.