Michigan State 71, Penn State 56: Spartans Easily Contain Nittany Lions

By Chad Markulics on January 13, 2019 at 8:35 pm
Jan 13, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions forward Mike Watkins (24) defends as Michigan State Spartans forward Nick Ward (44) drives the ball to the basket during the first half at Bryce Jordan Center.
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
  1st half 2nd half final
Michigan State 40 31 71
Penn State 24 32 56

Penn State's catastrophic start to the Big Ten schedule continued on network TV on Sunday, as the Nittany Lions fell 71-56 to sixth-ranked Michigan State. PSU's starters kept up with MSU's starters, scoring 56 points each, but the visitors' 15 bench points were the difference as Pat Chambers' bench scored zero points. Lamar Stevens contributed 20 of those 56 points on 18 shot attempts, while Josh Reaves, Mike Watkins and Myles Dread scored 11 points each. Reaves added a career-high nine assists in the losing effort.

Nick Ward and Cassius Winston gave the hosts a chance to climb back into the game as both Sparty stars got into foul trouble - Winston in the first half and Ward in the second - but as usual, Penn State's labored offense could not make up any ground on a perpetual double-digit lead. 

Curiously, Rasir Bolton played just six minutes off the bench as Jamari Wheeler took his place in the starting lineup. Kyle McCloskey was inserted into the rotation and played a career-high 18 minutes, his first since a few garbage-time minutes against UMBC. McCloskey did not score in Bolton's minutes, but did take two charges and grabbed three rebounds.

Penn State had a puncher's chance to get back into the game early in the second half with Ward sitting with foul trouble. An 8-3 start to the second period was keyed by three free throws and a slam by Reaves and a bucket by Stevens, but Matt McQuaid immediately responded with two back-to-back threes and put the kibosh on any real comeback hopes for a team with such a lackluster offense. 

The Nittany Lions continue their search for a Big Ten victory on Wednesday as Iowa visits the BJC. Penn State must figure out a plan on offense against a high-octane and highly-efficient Hawkeye attack.