This game could have, and maybe should have, gone the other way. Ed DeChellis' team came out and executed a nearly-lethal gameplan. On offense, Penn State took advantage of all the defensive attention MSU threw at Talor Battle--who was "held" to 16 points on 2-8 three-point shooting--and the much more lackadaisical defense played against Battle's supporting cast to post 65 points in 61 possessions.
Chris Babb (16), Jeff Brooks (13), and David Jackson (12) combined for 41 points on 7-12 two-point shooting and 7-13 three-point shooting. The Nittany Lions played a confident and cohesive offensive game, recording 17 assists on 23 made field goals (8 of the assists were dished by Battle).
Defensively, DeChellis waited until MSU looked to be on the verge of running away with the game, having built a 56-46 lead with nine and a half minutes to go in the game. Then he sprung Penn State's two zone looks on the Spartans. The result was an MSU scoring drought that culminated in a 58-56 Penn State lead with 6 minutes to go. From the point MSU built the 10-point lead, they scored just 11 points to finish the game, with 4 of those coming on free throws in the final 15 seconds.
There were at least two open jumpshots Penn State players missed in the final several minutes that would have put MSU in playing-from-behind mode. And the Nittany Lions gave an MSU turnover back to the Spartans in the final 20 seconds that would have given them the chance to tie the game or go ahead by 1.
As far as the hunt for a Big Ten championship goes, a win is a win. As far as this team peaking going into postseason play goes, that ship looks like it's sailed.
The four-factors graph actually looks OK. MSU limited turnovers (16.4%) and dominated the rebounding battle (40.0% vs. 16.7%). Penn State made this a game by doing what they'd done well in their recent three wins: making shots. The Nittany Lions converted 14 of 27 two-pointers and 9 of 23 three-pointers.
There are only three individual MSU performances that were bulletpoint-worthy tonight:
- Raymar Morgan is finishing his Big Ten career in fine fashion: 16 points on 13 FGA, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 turnover tonight. He took it at the Penn State zone when MSU needed points late in the game and converted 4 free throws in the clutch (taking advantage of a Penn State lane violation in the process).
Draymond Green was the offensive instigator early in the game. He finished with 14 points on 8 FGA, 9 rebounds (4 on offense), 4 assists, and zero turnovers. Heady play to double team Battle in the closing seconds and prevent him from getting past mid-court before the buzzer sounded.
- Korie Lucious showed some life tonight: 6 points (on 2-5 three-point shooting), 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 turnovers. He also played pretty good defense on Battle, blocking a 3-point attempt at one point (to make up for giving Battle too much room to knock down a 3-pointer on the previous trip).
Onward and forward: Our friends from Ann Arbor make the trek up I-96 on Sunday with, I imagine, every intention of making MSU eeeearn [spoken with British accent] a share of the Big Ten title. 4:00 on CBS.