Penn State basketball picked up its biggest win of the year on Saturday afternoon, as the Nittany Lions took down Michigan State in Philadelphia, 72-63. Usually we're used to Penn State wins over a "superior" opponent happening because of something fluky, but this was an all-around great game for Pat Chambers' squad. The Spartans led for only 27 seconds, giving Chambers his first-ever win over Tom Izzo.
The Nittany Lions played about as well as you could hope in the first half, smothering the Michigan State offense and seemingly scoring at will on the other end of the floor. Penn State took a 44-32 lead into the locker room behind 11 points from Tony Carr and 10 points from Lamar Stevens and Payton Banks.
Things got a little hairy in the second half, but unlike past games where the young Lions couldn't withstand the pressure, Penn State buckled down and kept Michigan State at bay. Of course, the crowd probably helped, as Nittany Nation traveled to the Palestra and made it feel like a home game.
Penn State over MSU at the Palestra...maybe the coolest gym in the country. pic.twitter.com/mCQiGebzoW— Connor Barwin (@ConnorBarwin98) January 7, 2017
With the win, Penn State moved to 10-7 on the year and 2-2 in the Big Ten.
You won't believe this, but Penn State did everything better than Michigan State and it led to a win. The Nittany Lions shot the ball well, cleaned up on the offensive boards, protected the ball, and hit free throws at a better rate than the Spartans did for 40 minutes. They just were the superior basketball team. It's crazy how that works out, right? We'll let Izzo take it from here...
MSU's Tom Izzo postgame: I thought all in all, Penn State played harder than us, better than us ... we got beat by a good team tonight.— Arielle Sargent (@arielle_sargent) January 7, 2017
- Shep Garner - Got back in the starting lineup after coming off the bench for a few games. It wasn't his best performance, as Garner went for 8 points and 3 rebounds on the afternoon, but he really stepped up as a leader in his hometown. Additionally, Garner became the 32nd player in school history to score 1,000 career points.
- Mike Watkins - Michigan State had no answer for Big Mike. He established himself as a future star in the Big Ten, as the Philly native had 11 points and 8 rebounds in his homecoming. When he's on his game, Watkins is one of the most entertaining big men in the conference.
- Tony Carr - Looked at home during his return to Philadelphia. There were a few times where he played like a freshman, sure, but on the whole, Carr showed why he's such a tantalizing prospect. While he was unable to pick up an assist, Carr had 14 points and 3 rebounds. The most encouraging part? Carr only turned the ball over twice.
- Lamar Stevens - Easily the player of the game. Stevens is showing why he may be the team's alpha dog already, as he had a game-high 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting with 6 rebounds.
- Josh Reaves - The dude is just a playmaker. Reaves dunked on Michigan State a whole heck of a lot. Once he rounds out his offensive game, he's really going to be special. He yet again did a little bit of everything – 6 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, and a blocked three.
- Payton Banks - No one wants Penn State to play in The Palestra more frequently than Banks. After last year's 20-point performance in the Nittany Lions' win over Drexel, Banks had a stellar first half, scoring 10 points on 3-for-4 shooting. He ended the game with 11 points.
- Terrence Samuel - Didn't score, but provided a calming presence when on the floor. Grabbed four rebounds.
- Julian Moore - An up and down game for Moore, who put up 4 points, 3 rebounds, and a pair of blocks on the night. Got in some foul trouble and Watkins played well, so he didn't see the floor much in the second half.
- Davis Zemgulis, Nazeer Bostick, Isaiah Washington - DNP-CDs abound.