Penn State Basketball 2011
Penn State Nittany Lions vs Michigan State Spartans Basketball RecapPenn State 66, Michigan State 62
Call it a perfect storm, an improbable convergence of events, a complete fluke, or anything else you want. Yet, as aberrational as it might have been, the cold truth of reality has been permanently etched into the Big Ten standings. The Penn State Nittany Lions just got off the schneid, while the Michigan State Spartans are no longer unbeaten in what is widely regarded as college basketball’s toughest conference.
It was improbable, implausible and positively jawdropping, but Penn State – a regular doormat in the Big Ten – knocked off the king of the conference on Saturday afternoon inside the Bryce Jordan Center. This uprising in University Park, Pennsylvania, took Big Ten watchers completely by storm, and left a future Hall of Fame coach puzzled along with the rest of the nation.
On Thursday, Penn State absorbed a 15-point loss at home to a Purdue team playing without star forward Robbie Hummel. Against a Michigan State team that was a little bit banged up but fundamentally intact, there seemed to be little chance that Penn State and coach Ed DeChellis could find enough excellence to topple the program that reached the 2010 Final Four… and the 2009 national championship game… and six Final Fours in the past 12 seasons. Coach Tom Izzo has turned Michigan State into the most reliable program this side of Durham, North Carolina, making the Spartans the biggest brand name in the sport outside of Duke. Michigan State failed to win a single significant game in the non-conference portion of its schedule, but after posting two wins to start the Big Ten season, it appeared that Sparty had ironed out various issues and was headed for a smoother ride in the conference. A trip to Happy Valley isn’t the toughest trip in the league by a longshot, so Izzo’s athletes had a right to expect another win in their rehabilitation tour.
Instead, they were jolted not just by Penn State, but by their own profound failures under very odd circumstances.
Michigan State saw three dependable players, three mainstays from the past two Final Four teams, fail miserably on the same day and at the same time. Big men Draymond Green and Delvon Roe combined to hit just 5 of 16 shots while scoring an aggregate total of only 12 points. Guard Korie Lucious, an active and quick guard who should have been able to exploit Penn State’s defense, scored only 5 points on 2-of-5 shooting. All those subpar displays left Michigan State vulnerable against the Nittany Nation, but the crazy part of the narrative is that Sparty did something even worse, something which sealed its doom.
Michigan State missed 10 of 20 foul shots. Yes, a team with a blue-collar identity and a penchant for making hay at the foul line failed to take care of business in one of basketball’s most elemental aspects. Izzo-coached teams have pulled through so many tight spots in the past, so how much more surprising it was that Sparty was so lacking against the Lions in central Pennsylvania.
It was one of those afternoons. One wonders how many more of them Michigan State might endure in a Big Ten season that has suddenly become more arduous.
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