Penn State (7-9, 4-8) fell to Michigan State (10-7, 4-7) 60-58 at the Breslin Center on Tuesday night after surrendering a four-point lead with just under three minutes to go in the game.
This was an extremely important game for the Nittany Lions, as they came into the game in ESPN Joe Lunardi’s ‘First Four Out’ for the NCAA Tournament. With the loss, Penn State will have much more of an uphill battle to climb with just six games left in the regular season.
Penn State started the game extremely slow on offense, as they only scored 24 points in the first half, but miraculously only ended the half down by eight. Ultimately, the offense slowly improved as the game went on, but the Nittany Lions still only shot 34.5% from the field in and shot an abyssmal 21.7% from 3. The defense was what kept them in the game, as Michigan State struggled offensively as well, only shooting 41.8% from the field and 26.7% from 3.
Michigan State took its largest lead of the game approximately a minute and a half into the second half, going up 36-24, but Penn State was able to tie it at 41 with 11:53 remaining. The Spartans followed that up with a 9-0 run over the next two and a half minutes to take a 50-41 lead.
Shortly after, guard Myreon Jones scored eight Penn State points to take a 58-54 lead with just over three minutes remaining. Penn State then allowed a 6-0 Michigan State to end the game, with Myles Dread missing two go-ahead 3s on the last two Nittany Lion possessions of the game.
Junior forward Aaron Henry led all scorers in the game with 20 on 9/19 shooting, 2/3 from downtown. Senior center John Harrar led Penn State with 17 points and 14 rebounds on 6/8 from the field, while Myreon Jones had 15 points on 5/12 shooting, including a 1/5 mark from 3.
Penn State outrebounded Michigan State 37-36 and had just nine turnovers compared to the Spartans 11, but ultimately were plagued by cold shooting for most of the game.
This was a very similar game to Penn State’s 55-50 win vs. Maryland on Friday night given the low-scoring and cold shooting. Penn State shot just 31.5% in that game and 21.7% from 3, but ultimately were able to overcome it given Maryland shooting just 35.4% from the field and 17.6% from 3.
- There are only so many times that you can afford to shoot that badly and still win games. The Nittany Lions currently rank 27th in the country in offensive efficiency, so a cold shooting game hasn’t been normal for them this season. In a must-win game on the road, this Penn State team needed to shoot the ball better.
- John Harrar has been Penn State’s best player lately, and it’s not remotely close. If he wasn’t on the court, Penn State loses this game by 20 or more. Harrar isn't as skilled as some of the great big men in this conference, but he’s been playing right with each and every one. His rebounding, physicality, and defense are off-the-charts, and his offense is much improved.
- Seth Lundy scored 0 points. It’s going to be a lot harder for Penn State to win games if he can’t get going.
- Jim Ferry drew up a great play to Myles Dread with 11 seconds left out of the timeout. He was wide open. Ferry deserves credit for that sequence.
- The Nittany Lions have blown late-game leads in four contests this season, two of which were lost in OT. This season is the same story as it has been in recent years: A better team than the record shows, but can’t close games.
- Penn State’s window on this season is closing. There are only six conference games remaining. Penn State needs to win 4/6 of them to have a chance at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, two of those games are against No. 4 Ohio State and No. 15 Iowa.
The Nittany Lions will be back at the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday to take on Nebraska at 3 p.m. Nebraska is currently 4-10 overall and 0-7 in conference play, so Penn State will once again have a must-win situation on their hands.