With serious Big Ten Tournament seeding implications on the line, No. 20 Penn State delivered its most disappointing performance of the season Tuesday night. The Nittany Lions blew a 19-point lead to No. 16 Michigan State, losing their final home game of the season 79-71. Penn State is now eliminated from contention for the double-bye in the conference tournament and will play its first Big Ten Tournament game next Thursday in Indianapolis.
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On Senior Night, Penn State's star senior had a miserable game. Lamar Stevens missed his first 11 field goals of the game and finished the game just 3-19 from the field. His 15 points mostly came at the free-throw line, though he finished just 9-14 there. He couldn't buy a basket, especially in the first half as the Spartans defended him exceptionally well.
Fans who watched the first half were treated to one of Penn State's best halves of the season. Despite Stevens missing all nine of his field-goal attempts, the youth on the roster led the way to start Senior Night. With sophomore Myreon Jones back in the starting lineup for the first time in a month, he combined with fellow sophomore Myles Dread and freshman Seth Lundy to shoot 9-10 from beyond the arc in the opening frame, helping the team race out to a 15-point halftime lead.
That lead evaporated shockingly quickly. It did not take long for the Spartans to rip off a 24-2 second-half run and leave the Nittany Lions trying to play catch up for the rest of the way.
Xavier Tillman had a monster game, finishing with 23 points and 14 rebounds. Rocket Watts added 18 points, and Cassius Winston had 7 assists to lead the way for the Spartans (21-9, 13-6 Big Ten). Tom Izzo's team clinched a double-bye with the win and will play next Friday in Indianapolis.
Penn State plays at Northwestern Saturday in its final regular-season game. The Nittany Lions (21-9, 11-8 Big Ten) will be seeded somewhere between fifth and eighth in the Big Ten. We'll post a guide to the seeding implications of that game later this week.