Spartans too much for PSU
By Paddy Cotter
For the Mirror
Penn State’s issues are starting to become its identity in a season that is already on the brink of being lost.
That was evident on Sunday as No. 6 Michigan State beat the Nittany Lions, 71-56, in the Bryce Jordan Center to drop to 0-6 in Big Ten play.
“We’ve got to bring it all together,” PSU coach Patrick Chambers said. “And we haven’t brought it all together yet.”
One issue that has become more apparent throughout the season is the Lions lack of a clear offensive facilitator. Stevens, who finished with a game-high 20 points, is the statistical leader, but he doesn’t fit the mold as a facilitator.
That role is usually reserved for a point guard, which the Lions don’t really have on offense. Jamari Wheeler and Josh Reaves are only effective on defense — they combined for 14 points on 17 shots against the Spartans. Freshmen Rasir Bolton and Myles Dread have lacked consistency and fit in better as shooting guards.
“They’ve hit a little bit of that proverbial wall,” Chambers said of the freshman duo.
“Our freshmen got to get tougher,” Stevens said. “We’re going to keep grinding at that.”
Both offenses had a hot start, totaling 20 points in the first four minutes. The Lions couldn’t keep their pace up with the Spartans, who jumped to a 10-point lead at the midpoint of the first half.
The Spartans’ offense was best when it operated from the paint, scoring 24 points in that area. Nick Ward, who led the Spartans with 16 points and 11 rebounds, outmatched the Lions’ interior and led the Spartans to a 20-point lead with three minutes left in the first half.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said he was disappointed that his wings couldn’t get Ward the ball more, but that the big man did good with his limited touches.
“Nick is a load in there,” Izzo said. “I thought he rebounded the best he’s rebounded all year against a very good player in (Mike) Watkins.”
Reaves echoed Izzo’s thoughts and said that Ward is such a challenge because of his size.
Penn State tried to generate most of its offense from the perimeter, but lackluster shooting made the strategy minimally effective. By halftime, the Lions were 3 of 13 from the 3-point line. By the end of the game, they were 5 of 22.
“There’s open shots that we need to hit,” Chambers said. “We had a couple of really good shots to stop the bleeding and they didn’t go down.”
The Spartans took a 40-24 lead into the break.
The Lions came out of the locker room with something to prove. Led by an energetic defensive effort, the Lions cut the lead to 10.
“The pressure bothered us,” Izzo said.
The comeback attempt that ensued was full of big moments and aerial dunks by the Lions, but never made a serious threat to retake the lead.
With 8 minutes left, Dread injured his lower left leg after trying to secure a loose ball. The freshman, who scored 8 points at that point, returned later in the game.
“Kid’s a warrior,” Chambers said. “He’s tough.”
The Spartans slowly grew their lead to 20 again and erased any hope of a late letdown.
“They’re not that far off,” Izzo said of the Lions. “I still think they can win a lot of games.”
The Lions will try to get their first conference win of the season against Iowa on Wednesday at home.
MICHIGAN ST. (15-2)
Ward 7-11 2-3 16, Goins 3-6 0-0 7, Henry 3-6 1-4 7, McQuaid 4-7 3-4 15, Winston 3-7 4-4 11, Brown 1-5 0-0 3, Kithier 0-0 0-0 0, Bingham 0-0 0-0 0, Tillman 1-3 3-4 5, Loyer 3-6 0-0 7, George 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-51 13-19 71.
PENN ST. (7-10)
Stevens 8-18 3-3 20, Watkins 5-10 1-2 11, Reaves 4-11 3-5 11, Wheeler 1-6 0-0 3, Dread 4-5 0-0 11, Harrar 0-0 0-0 0, Buttrick 0-2 0-0 0, Bolton 0-2 0-0 0, McCloskey 0-1 0-0 0, Jones 0-5 0-0 0. Totals 22-60 7-10 56.
Halftime–Michigan St. 40-24. 3-Point Goals–Michigan St. 8-20 (McQuaid 4-6, Goins 1-2, Winston 1-3, Brown 1-4, Loyer 1-4, Henry 0-1), Penn St. 5-22 (Dread 3-4, Wheeler 1-3, Stevens 1-4, Buttrick 0-1, McCloskey 0-1, Bolton 0-2, Jones 0-3, Reaves 0-4). Fouled Out–None. Rebounds–Michigan St. 36 (Ward 11), Penn St. 25 (Watkins 7). Assists–Michigan St. 19 (Winston 6), Penn St. 11 (Reaves 9). Total Fouls–Michigan St. 15, Penn St. 19. A–10,196