UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – No. 16 Michigan State (21-9, 13-6) shot 67.9 percent in the second half and connected on four of its five 3-pointers in the period to escape the Bryce Jordan Center with a 79-71 win over Penn State (21-9, 11-8) Tuesday, March 3. Four Spartans combined for 44 of the team’s 48 points in the second half to overcome a 46-25 deficit.
“It’s exciting to be on (this) level now, and that can’t drop,” said Penn State men’s basketball coach Patrick Chambers. “We’re a damn good team, we just haven’t played 40 minutes yet. MJ [Myeron Jones] is getting back, he’s getting closer and closer. We’re getting close…We had a great first half, but a disappointing second half. Give Tom [Izzo] credit, give Michigan State credit, and give [Xavier] Tillman credit. I haven’t seen anybody guard Lamar like that in four years. He did an outstanding job of really frustrating him all night long. We have a lot of basketball to be played, a lot of time for us to right the ship, and we will because I know we have a lot of commitment and a lot of love in that locker room.”
Three Nittany Lions scored in double digits with sophomore guard Myreon Jones returning to the starting lineup and finishing the night with a team-best 16 points. Senior forward Lamar Stevens had 15 points, 13 coming in the second half, and senior forward Mike Watkins added 12 with a team-best nine rebounds.
A putback layup by junior forward John Harrar then key deflection with 5:07 left to play, followed by another Harrar layup, put Penn State down by only two, 68-66. The game’s leading scorer, Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman, made two free throws to give the Spartans a 70-66 lead at the 4:34 mark. Penn State trimmed the lead to three, 70-67, on a free throw, but couldn’t get any closer. Tillman had 23 on the night and a game-high 15 rebounds.
The Spartans held on for the 79-71 win with five free throws and a pair of baskets over the game’s final few minutes.
Michigan State flipped the script on Penn State in the second half. In the first half, Penn State made 7-8 field goals by five different Nittany Lions over a stretch of three-and-a-half minutes to take a 33-18 lead. The Spartans made their opening six shots after the break, missed two, and then made five more to reverse the score to a 57-53 MSU advantage.
Penn State responded with a 9-3 run, keyed by back-to-back baskets by Stevens for a 65-62 score with 8:17 to play.
The Nittany Lions opened the game on a 10-2 run beginning with an alley-oop from Jamari Wheeler to Watkins. A trey by both Wheeler and Seth Lundy and another alley-oop to Watkins gave the Lions the early advantage. Over a stretch of 2:16, the Nittany Lions were held scoreless as Michigan State pulled within one 12-11.
Two free throws by Watkins and then four-straight field goals by Izaiah Brockington and Seth Lundy including two treys by Myreon Jones pushed the Penn State’s lead back up to 12, 25-13.
A late bucket by Watkins beat the buzzer as Penn State took a 46-31 lead into halftime.
The Nittany Lions close the regular season at Northwestern on Saturday, March 7. The Big Ten Network will broadcast the 4 p.m. ET game