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Moritz Wagner, Michigan’s bench the catalyst in road victory at Penn State

It was a hard-earned victory, but the Wolverines are still in it for the fourth seed in the Big Ten Tourney.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

With a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament on the line, the Michigan Wolverines had some work to do this week. They also needed a little fortune to come their way.

Along with needing one Nebraska loss, the Wolverines needed to win both their games this week to secure the fourth seed in the upcoming conference tournament, giving them the ever-appreciate double-bye.

The Wolverines did their part tonight in Happy Valley, defeating the Penn State Nittany Lions 72-63.

Michigan controlled much of the first half, and even managed to have an addition to Jordan Poole’s highlight reel with this monster slam dunk.

The Wolverines had 22 points off their bench — including 20 combined from Duncan Robinson and Poole — in the first half while the Nittany Lions had just four, and Michigan led 34-26 at halftime in large part because of that.

But Penn State started the second half on fire, shooting 5-for-6 before the first media timeout. Michigan began just 1-for-4 in the first four minutes, which helped the Nittany Lions take a 39-38 lead.

Penn State proceeded to go on a 10-0 scoring run, but Moritz Wagner helped silence the crowd by ending the scoring drought with a three-pointer to tie the game at 41. After a two-pointer by Penn State’s Lamar Stevens, Wagner hit another three-pointer to put the Wolverines up by one.

After several minutes of back-and-forth action with the Wolverines hanging on to a one-point lead, Wagner drove to the basket for a hard-fought layup to put Michigan in front by three. After a missed shot by the Nittany Lions, the Wolverines ran quickly up the court to give Poole a wide open look from three. He buried the shot and gave Michigan a six-point lead. By the final media timeout, Michigan’s lead was at five points, 56-51.

That lead quickly grew to nine after a Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman lay-in, a PSU jumper and a huge three-pointer by Robinson. Penn State was never able to come back after that.

Michigan’s bench was clearly a huge factor in this game. Robinson led the entire team in scoring coming off the bench with 19 points, a season-high for him. He also had four rebounds and three (!) blocks.

The entire Michigan bench had 34 points; Penn State’s had just six.

Wagner also played a huge role in the win tonight because of his three-point shooting. He shot 4-of-5 from beyond the arc, and most of those threes, if not all of them, came at convenient times of the game to either tie the game or give Michigan the lead. He finished with 18 points and seven rebounds.

Poole also contributed 13 points off the bench and three boards.

With Nebraska already defeating one of their two opponents this week, Michigan has to win on Saturday and hope for a Nebraska loss on Sunday. Michigan plays at Maryland while Nebraska plays at home against Penn State.