Three phases to this one:
1) Defensive dominance in the first 23 minutes leads to a 46-24 lead for MSU, and the only question appeared to be how long before the Human Victory Cigars (Anthony Ianni and the rest of the walk-on brigade) would make their appearance.
2) Absolute panic from fans as Penn State went on a 23-6 run to cut that seemingly insurmountable lead to just five with 9:18 to go.
3) MSU answers with a 23-5 run of its own (featuring three and-ones and a pair of three-pointers) to put it back out of reach with three minutes to go.
The result? Possibly the most nerve-wracking 20-point win ever.
The four-factors graph:
As usual, rebounding was a huge advantage, getting nearly half of our own misses back while holding Penn State under 20%. The other key factor: Penn State fouled. A lot. We took 34 shots from the charity stripe, our highest number in conference play on the year. (Free throw shooting left a little to be desired, however - only 23 of those went in.)
- Draymond Green was up to his usual stat-sheet-stuffing ways: 23 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, and a steal. One sour note: 5 missed free throws (9-14), including two when the game was at its closest in the second half.
- Branden Dawson is on a roll (earning a shout-out from CBSSports.com as a potential Freshman of the Year dark-horse): 12 points, 7 boards, 3 steals, 2 blocks.
- Adreian Payne (12 points, 5 boards, 2 steals) and Keith Appling (10-4-7 with a steal as well) also got to double figures.
Derrick Nix was limited to just two points and had two turnovers as well. He had more difficulty than usual dealing with double-teams inside, particularly during Penn State's run.
- Two near-trillions (for those unfamiliar with the concept, it's an appearance in which you record absolutely no stats except for minutes, so the box score has one or two minutes followed by a bunch of zeros - Mark Titus, former walk-on for Ohio State and now writer at Grantland (warning: the article linked contains mention of the game that absolutely did not take place last Tuesday)
may have coined the term(edit: as MSUDersh points out in the comments, the term goes back quite a bit further) popularized the term among college basketball bloggers, although it was apparently in use in the NBA well before): Ianni went two minutes recording only a turnover, and Brandan Kearney nearly pulled an incredibly rare eight-trillion: 8 minutes, 1 foul, nothing else.
Next up: a trip to Ohio State (Saturday at 6:00 ET). Win that and we set up a likely winner-take-all (or at least "one team can win outright, the other can force a tie") finale three weeks later (not to mention establishing further separation from Wisconsin and Michigan); lose and we will have to win out and hope for a little help.