This game was different.
December clunkers against Western Michigan and Binghamton (and to a lesser extent Air Force) were a product of the Wolverines sleepwalking past lesser competition.
Penn State entered Ann Arbor Thursday night with the No. 24 defense nationally. It left with the No. 16 one.
It just so happened that John Beilein possesses the No. 2 unit, which held the visitors to .76 points per possession — and several ugly misses from three.
Michigan slowly muscled past the Nittany Lions 68-55, with the Top Plays coming courtesy of its trademark defense and patient offense.
Jordan Poole’s behind the back pass to Austin Davis
The first eight minutes saw some ugly basketball. Penn State led 7-6, as the Wolverines turned the ball over three times before the first media break.
Michigan took back control with some exquisite passing. First, Poole dumped it to Austin Davis on a pick-and-roll, and Davis dished it to Ignas Brazdeikis for an easy bucket.
A possession after Poole drained a three after a series of jab steps, he veered towards the right end of the basket. He then summoned the spirit of Magic Johnson, whipping the ball behind his back to Davis, who slammed it home.
While he led the Wolverines in scoring with 17, Poole also notched two assists. He has done that or better in nine of 14 contests.
Eli Brooks staves off PSU run late in first half
First off, welcome back Dustin Johnston!
Second, Michigan started leaning on it’s top-five defense, stretching the lead to 20-10 with under eight to go in the half. Penn State refused to go away.
The Nittany Lions chipped away, forcing eight straight misses to pull within 20-18. Eli Brooks then snatched a chance to tie the game away, and dunked on the other end. It helped send the Wolverines to the locker room up 25-20.
It started a trend: Whenever the visitors got within a possession, the hosts would slap the comeback away with an mini-run.
Iggy Brazdeikis’s strong takes for the ol’ fashioned 3-point plays
Wolverines Win! #2 Michigan takes down Penn State 68-55 to improve to 14-0 on the season.— CollegeBB News (@CollegeBBNCAA) January 4, 2019
Ignas Brazdeikis: 16 PTS, 11 REB
The Canadian freshman scuffled in the first frame, only tallying four points on 2-for-9 shooting.
He refocused in the second half, lowering his center of gravity to power to the rim. In the early minutes, he took a steal coast-to-coast, finished through contact for an old-fashioned three-point play. It boosted the lead to 31-22.
Later, he spun past the Lamar Stevens on the baseline, banking a layup for another “and one.” The lead grew to 48-31, creating a gap that Penn State’s offense was never going to close.
Brazdeikis ended up with 16 points (6-of-16), 11 boards, two steals and a block.
Charles Matthews hits a dagger from deep
Skip to 7:50
Pat Chambers’ teams just don’t quit against Michigan. They stormed back to shock the 2013 NCAA Finalists in Happy Valley, and have lost by single-digits in four games since then.
Eventually, though, the other shoe drops. Up 55-47 with under six minutes left, Charles Matthews hit a dagger from three to push the lead to 58-47.
The Nittany Lions never got closer than nine the rest of the way. Matthews efficiently scored 16 points on 11 shots. hitting a third of his treys.
While the offense scored just .94 points a possession, Matthews and company racked up 43 points in the second half against an excellent defense.