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No. 4 Michigan 78, Penn State 84: My Kingdom For A Stop

Michigan traveled to Happy Valley to take on the 8-18 (0-14) Nittany Lions. The final seconds ticked off the clock; Penn State's record is now 9-18 (1-14).

Tim's face in this picture=my face right now.
Tim's face in this picture=my face right now.

Michigan came out with a bang, with Jordan Morgan (of all people) scoring the first points of the game. Then, Glenn Robinson III unleashed a thunderous dunk with the sheer velocity and force of an arrow unleashed from a bow.

The Wolverines jumped out to a 6-2 lead, but Michigan's inability to clean up on the defensive glass allowed PSU to pull ahead, 8-6, in the early stages of the game. The Nittany Lions had five offensive rebounds in less than four minutes of play, which may have been a product of your standard opening minutes adrenaline.

A brilliant hustle play from Mitch McGary on a loose ball situation resulted in a hockey assist for him; he found GRIII on the other side of the lane, who then found Nik Stauskas on the opposite block for two at the rim. Add one more play to the Mitch "Crunk" McGary scrapbook of crunkly exploits. With Michigan still looking a little unsettled on the defensive end early on, they needed plays like this (and a few outside shots from Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke) to keep PSU an arm's length away before initiating one of their patented 10-0 runs.

For all of Mitch's energy, however, when thrown the ball on the block about nine minutes in, he immediately traveled; sadly, we'll probably have to wait until next year to see a legitimate, consistent post game from him. Luckily, he made up for this about a minute later with an offensive board and a tough finish through contact for two.

Although Michigan was well on its way to a prolific offensive output, PSU continued to hang tough, hitting outside shots despite the fact that, well, they don't typically do that. Although I don't know what the future holds for Pat Chambers at PSU, one thing is clear: his team does play hard, even if they don't have the talent right now to supplement that hustle.

Despite an almost 20 percentage point difference from the field, PSU was only down four at the 7:36 mark. This was built almost entirely on the back of dogged effort on the offensive glass and some uncharacteristic sharp-shooting from beyond the arc.

A beautiful alley oop lob from Spike Albrecht to THJ in transition gave Michigan a bit of a cushion, but some uncharacteristic sloppiness from Michigan led to two straight PSU buckets, cutting the lead back down to just one. Even Burke coughed it up once on an inbound catch around the 4:00 mark. This is likely no consolation to PSU fans, but the Nittany Lions certainly weren't looking like a team with an 0-14 conference record.

Despite 37 first half points, Michigan entered the halftime break up just one. At this juncture you can't chalk this up to something unquantifiable and stupid like "adrenaline." Michigan was simply playing horrific, teeth-gnashingly bad defense, while also turning it over a whopping ten times in the first half alone (just over their average per game) and going just 2-for-9 from three.

Michigan gave up 1.07 points per possession in the first half; for the second game in a row, the Nittany Lions found solving the Wolverine D to be not much of a problem at all.


On the bright side, it seems as if Michigan had been saving that aforementioned big run for the opening minutes of the second half. In the span of a little over two minutes, Michigan increased their lead to nine on three layups and a THJ dunk in transition. One of those layups came on an absolutely disgusting Burke hesitation move; for the first time all game, Michigan was playing like a No. 4 team should against an 0-14 conference team.

Three treys and a Jon Horford putback later and Michigan found itself up 60-47. PSU was still playing hard, but Michigan was threatening to put this one away as the game reached the midway point of the second half.

PSU rallied back, cutting the lead to nine at one point. Michigan faced the zone again, which PSU had thrown out intermittently all game. The ball eventually found its way up top to an open Stauskas, who missed, but OH MY THAT'S GLENN ROBINSON III'S MUSIC. Watching Minnesota's Rodney Williams jump last night was fairly ridiculous, but GRIII is not that far behind (if at all) in the leaping department.

Once again, PSU cut the lead down to six with just under seven minutes to go. You're probably sensing a theme here.

A Ross Travis steal and layup cut the lead further still. Michigan was now up just three after having been up by as many as 15 a mere five minutes of game play prior. A Jermaine Marshall trey tied things up at 74-74, and a key sequence followed: Trey Burke picked up a charging call driving to the basket on the offensive end, and THJ picked up his 4th foul on a blocking call at the other end.

After having been down by 15 at the 10:40 mark, PSU took the lead at the 3:55 mark, 76-74. Michigan then took two questionable threes on the next two possessions, despite only being down two with over three minutes to go.

Burke hit a clutch pair of free throw to cut the PSU lead to one, 79-78, despite looking completely gassed. A Marshall layup brought the lead back up to three, and Michigan failed to score on the other end.

After that, it was just pointless desperation. Michigan took bad shot after bad shot down the stretch, even when there was still time and the game was not yet in the hack-a-Lion stage.

I mean, what is there to say? Goodbye regular season title hopes, goodbye 1-seed (2-seed?), goodbye to a sizeable chunk of expectations which seemed on solid ground through about 30 minutes of this game.

Even when Michigan built up that lead, Penn State was playing harder all game and making plays that Michigan was not (or, at least, not nearly as many of them as PSU). It also didn't hurt that PSU shot a ridiculous 50% from three and forced 15 Michigan turnovers. There is no reason for Michigan to have lost this game, but sometimes you just have to admit that, on this day, the other guy was better, even if he had no real business being so.

People will say that Michigan was "looking ahead" to Michigan State, which is pointless gibberish. Michigan was up 15 (have I mentioned this already?) 75% of the way through the game, and lost, because PSU looked like the top 5 team down the stretch and Michigan looked like a tentative, listless bunch. I understand this response, however, because it is a defensive mechanism against the fact that this Michigan team could possibly lose to an 0-14 PSU team, long since without its best player.

Welcome to college basketball. Up is down, down is up, and kings become paupers become kings.

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