After a close 86-83 overtime loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes to open Big Ten play last Sunday, the Michigan men’s basketball team returned home to the Crisler Center to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions. The end result was in the Wolverines’ favor as they won 72-69 helping them to avoid a 0-2 in league play. But for the maize and blue to claim the victory, they had to comeback to do so.
Early on in the game, Michigan was getting out played by Penn State in every aspect of the game. The Nittany Lions were hitting shots from every spot on the court. After the first 20 minutes Michigan was getting out shot 44 percent to 54.2 percent. Not only was the maize and blue out shot by Penn State in the first half, but it was out rebounded as well—10-21. The poor opening half performance put Michigan in a 36-29 hole at halftime.
Coming out of halftime, it seemed like Michigan was going to be ran out of the arena as Penn State built a 55-42 lead with 11:22 remaining in the contest. But then the Wolverines got a spark from sixth man, Duncan Robinson.
Robinson hardly played in the first half due to him picking up two quick fouls. But after the first nine minutes of the second half, Robinson went on a 5-0 run to help Michigan pull within eight of Penn State. Those five quick points helped the Wolverines go on a 10-0 run and put the score at 55-52, Nittany Lions, with 8:32 remaining in the game.
While it seemed like Penn State was going to pull away once again, Michigan finally started to hit 3-pointers and gave them its first lead since the 16:16 minute mark in the first half. After that, the Wolverines only relinquished the lead for a couple seconds, but regained it with a Zak Irvin jumper.
While Michigan’s offensive ability heated up in the second half, so did its defense. During the last 20 minutes of the game, the Wolverines finally started providing backside help when the Nittany Lions drove down the lane. That helped neutralize Penn State’s Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins, who were both doing damage in lane in the first half.
Michigan was led by Irvin and Derrick Walton Jr., who both chipped in 14 points. The Wolverines blossoming “Twin Towers” (Moritz Wagner and D.J. Wilson) contributed 12 points each as well.
Altogether, it was an ugly win for Michigan. Although the Wolverines shot a respectful 44.6 percent from the field, they shot an uninspiring 28.6 percent from 3-point range while the Nittany Lions shot 42.1 percent from behind the arc.
Looking at the remaining home schedule, this was the last Big Ten game Michigan fans could feel like the Wolverines will get a guaranteed win—as they don’t play Rutgers in Ann Arbor this season. If there is one main takeaway from the Wolverines’ outing against the Nittany Lions, it is that Big Ten wins will be a grind and may be hard to come by if the maize and blue perform like they did tonight.
Michigan will return to the court on Jan. 7 against the Maryland Terrapins at 2:15 p.m. CT at the Crisler Center.