Michigan moved to 4-0 in the Big Ten while the Nittany Lions remain winless at 0-5. Despite those wildly diverging schedules, this one was a lot tougher for Michigan than the final 15-point margin would suggest.
Michigan built a quick 8-0 lead thanks to a quick start from Derrick Walton, but Penn State continued to play Michigan well most of the first half, and instead of going into the tank once Michigan pushed the lead to 14 with three minutes left, Penn State put together a 10-3 run of its own to bring the game within seven at half.
On the other side of the break it was all Penn State as the Nittany Lions clawed to within a single basket in the first five minutes of the second half. However, the storm was over quickly and Michigan needed only three minutes after the first TV timeout of the second half to blow the game open with a 14-4 run. Penn State was able to cut the lead to under double digits later in the half, but Michigan kept its foot on the gas and answered every run.
Despite being 0-5 in the Big Ten, this Penn State team is dangerous thanks to the backcourt of Tim Fraizer and DJ Newbill. Those two would both put up 17 points apiece for Penn State. Ultimately they wouldn't have enough to push past Michigan.
A big reason for that was the play of Nik Stauskas, who was all over the court with 22 points for the Wolverines. He spent the day getting into the lane and dishing out pretty dump-off assists as help defense arrived, hitting outside shots (3/8) and tying the team high in assists (5) and nearly leading the team in rebounds (6). It was yet another banner day for the improving sophomore wing, and Stauskas' role in the offense has to be clear to everyone at this point.,
Of course, a big reason he is able to have so much success is that the rest of Michigan's supporting cast has been playing well as of late. Glenn Robinson III didn't shoot the ball particularly well (3/10 on 2pt att.), but he threw down a couple thunderous dunks and still managed 15 points thanks to hitting two of his three 3PA. His five rebounds, three assists, and one steal also helped keep Michigan on top.
Derrick Walton continues to improve as Michigan's point guard. He started the game hot with Michigan's first 8 points and added three rebounds and three assists to his final total of 16 points. Caris LeVert also managed to make himself useful despite taking (and making) few shots. His five assists and two steals made up for just six points.
The big beneficiaries of Michigan's impressive passing day (18 assist on 28 FGM) were the team's two big men, Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford. Morgan scored eight points and made all three of his shots while Horford scored 11 and made 4/5 from the floor. Even better, the two combined to go 5/6 from the line.
It wasn't a marquee opponent, but this was still an important win for Michigan. The schedule doesn't set up well for the Wolverines, who have to face Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan State — quite possibly the Big Ten's three best teams at the moment — in the next three games, with only the Iowa game at home. With the Big Ten being so top-heavy this year, Michigan can't afford to drop games it is favored in, and Penn State proved last year (without Tim Fraizer) that it could play spoiler for the Wolverines.
So, with games against the three worst Big Ten teams (and Minnesota) in the rear view mirror, Michigan has a few days off before its first stiff test of the season. Winning in Madison against the suddenly high powered Badger offense isn't going to be an easy task. The road doesn't let up from there.