The Nittany Lions were able to do what seems to be impossible for most teams this college basketball season: win a road game in the Big Ten.
Lamar Stevens led the way with 19 points, while Curtis Jones added 18 off the bench, all in the second half, propelling Penn State to a 72-63 win over the Michigan Wolverines in the Crisler Center. It was the first time the Nittany Lions have won at Michigan since 2010 (coincidentally, the last year Penn State made the NCAA Tournament).
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Pat Chambers went with his revamped starting lineup once again, swapping out Myles Dread and Mike Watkins for Seth Lundy and John Harrar. While the move didn't pay off as much as we've seen in some other games, it was good to see the roles start to stabilize a bit.
Stevens got the Nittany Lions off to a hot start, scoring seven points before two minutes had even gone by. An early timeout by first-year Wolverine head coach Juwan Howard stopped the bleeding, allowing things to stabilize a bit for the home team. Stevens could do no wrong from the baseline, consistently muscling through defenders and getting to the line. He was one rebound short of yet another double-double.
Mike Watkins didn't have the best day off the bench, finishing with five points, but he did have a nice and-1 on a steal that really set the tone for the defense early on. His presence inside noticeably impacted dynamic Michigan point guard Zavier Simpson's shot selection throughout the contest.
As we've seen so many times this season, the Nittany Lions went cold midway through the first period, allowing the Wolverines to take control with an 11-0 run that lasted nearly four minutes.
Penn State quickly turned things around, playing some phenomenal defense to throw the Wolverines off the rhythm, allowing Michigan to manage just seven points in the final ten minutes of the opening period. Some great shooting by Myreon Jones allowed the Nittany Lions to go on a run of their own late in the half, taking a 37-28 advantage into the locker room.
Pat Chambers had his team come out hot once to start the second half, getting seven quick points and once again forcing Juwan Howard to use a timeout less than three minutes into a half.
The Nittany Lions were able to keep the Wolverines at arm's length away for a good chunk of the second half before some better shot selection by Michigan, and some shoddy rebounding and defense from PSU brought them within six.
Then Curits Jones Jr. went off.
The graduate transfer exploded for 18 points on 7-8 shooting, including 3-4 from beyond the arc. All of his shot attempts came in the second half, giving Penn State the closer they desperately needed to secure a comfortable win on the road. In all, Penn State was able to show off their depth once again, with 31 points coming from reserves compared to just four for Michigan.
The Nittany Lions now have two solid wins under their belt in the past week, after a convincing win over Ohio State in the Bryce Jordan Center on Saturday afternoon. The Big Ten is a murderer's row this year, so you need to take advantage of any chances you have to put together win streaks.
Penn State now has a week off before they host the Indiana Hoosiers at the Bryce Jordan Center next Wednesday night. This time off should allow the team to reset as they prepare for the second half of their Big Ten slate.