The primary cause of defeat for the Spartans was terrible defense. That is exactly what it was — terrible. After jumping out to a 29-16 lead in the first half, the Spartans gave up three consecutive three-pointers. Two were hit by Talor Battle and third was drained by Jamelle Cornley. This was the ignition to the Spartans' downfall on Sunday afternoon.
"We have had spurts when we looked great on defense then we had spurts when we looked like the worst team in the Big Ten," senior guard Travis Walton said. "So until we figure things out, it's going to be problems."
The Nittany Lions finished the game shooting 56.3% from the field and connecting on 10 of their 20 attempts from beyond the arc. Similar to the Northwestern game, PSU hit some threes from beyond 30 feet, and even banked one in.
Those were frustrating shots, but players like Battle and Stanley Pringle are very good three-point shooters, and if their feet are set, they can hit from anywhere. That is what happened on Sunday.
"You have to come in here and make baskets if you are going to beat a great team like Michigan State," Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. "You're just not going to line up and beat them, so you have to do something special and our special thing tonight was making three-point baskets."
The headliner coming into the game for Penn State was Talor Battle and he lived up to the high billing. He rained in six three-balls while scoring 29 points overall, with 18 coming in the first half. Travis Walton did all he could do, but when a natural scorer heats up, there is not much that you can do to contain him.
"He is a big-game player. He loves this atmosphere," DeChellis said. "I thought he had a great first half and I thought that he controlled the game in the second half as well, though he didn't score as much."
Cornley scored 26 on the Spartans when these two teams met up on January 14, and he did damage once again. This time, he dropped in 16 hard fought points. He was effective facing up on the MSU big men and taking them off the dibble. He even stepped out and knocked down a triple himself.
Even with the porous defense, the nation's No. 9 team still had a chance to tie the game late with a Kalin Lucas free throw. Unfortunately, he missed the opportunity, which was disheartening because of the effort and skill that Lucas displayed throughout the game, finishing with 23 points and 4 assists.
Coach Izzo wanted to make it clear, that Lucas was not to blame for the loss.
"The game wasn't lost on Kalin Lucas' free throw, it was won or lost when we were seven up and decided not to guard," Izzo explained. "We haven't guarded well the last five games — I've been complaining about it to you and our team."
HOME UN-SWEET HOME
The Breslin Center is known for being one of the nation's toughest places to play for a visiting team. In the past two weeks, it has been one of the toughest places to play for the home team. The Spartans are 1-2 in their last three home games. The lone win was against Illinois, in a game that required a comeback.
The odd thing about the home woes is that the Green & White have looked impressive in both of their road games during this same two week stretch, winning at Ohio State and Iowa by double-digit margins.
"I think when we're on the road, we have a better focus," Lucas said. "Since we do have the crowd, our parents, everybody else at the game, and we have the Izzone I think we don't come out with the focus that we should."
Izzo took it a little further.
"You win at home because you work. You don't win at home because you're supposed to," Izzo said. "It's an entitlement society, as we all know, and I think our players kind of feel that the past players pioneered their way through, and it's an entitlement that we're supposed to win at home."
This loss marks the first time that Michigan State has lost consecutive home games since December 4 and 13 of 1997 when they fell to Temple and Detroit respectively.
"Maybe a little bit of the mystique is gone, and that's something that our team is going to have to get back," Izzo said.
IZZO ON RAYMAR
Raymar Morgan didn't see the floor until there was 6:43 left in the game due to his lingering illness. He only played three minutes, but his coach was grateful for every second.
"I don't know what Raymar's deal is. I just appreciate him, because unlike some players in the past, he'll play a minute or he'll play 30 minutes," Izzo said. "He's not sitting there worrying about his averages, he's worried about us winning."
Izzo was visibly upset when talking about Morgan, due to some criticism that has been heaped on his player.
"I heard people ripping him for how he is, which is so ignorant — ignorant and ridiculous," Izzo said. "The kid is sick, he's worn down. It's been a very frustrating situation for me, but just think what it's been like for him."
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