Battle's Big Game Not Enough

With Brooks out, Penn State's leading scorer received little help from the rest of his supporting cast in a come-from-ahead loss to Michigan. Afterward, Battle laid into the team.

Talor Battle took another step toward becoming Penn State's all-time leading scorer Saturday, posting a game-high 31 points against Michigan.

Unfortunately for the 6-foot senior dynamo, he also inched closer to another milestone, this one more dubious -- taking a place among the best Big Ten players never to make an NCAA Tournament.

The Nittany Lions blew double-digit leads in both halves before finally succumbing 65-62 to a Wolverine outfit that had won two of its previous nine games. PSU fell to 12-10 overall and 5-6 in the Big Ten, and with only seven regular-season games remaining State's NCAA bubble is precariously close to popping.

Battle laid into the team after the game.

“I stood right up and told everyone -- (especially the) four seniors, man, this is the end of it,” Battle said. “We're not freshmen and sophomores anymore. These are the last games for people, man. I'm just so disappointed that we lost this game.”

One of those seniors, forward Jeff Brooks (Penn State's second-leading scorer and top rebounder) could not play after dislocating a shoulder in a loss at Illinois Tuesday. Brooks dressed and warmed up, but was limited to the role of cheerleader on the bench.

“It wasn't about having Jeff or not having Jeff,” Battle said.

There was another obvious factor behind the loss.

Namely, the inability of senior post players David Jackson and Andrew Jones to compensate for Brooks' absence. They combined for 12 points and nine rebounds against an undersized Michigan front line. Jones finished with two shots (he made one) and three rebounds. Jackson had nine points but did not score in the paint and had only three points in the second half. Neither blocked a shot and Michigan finished with 32 points down low (to PSU's 14 -- all but four of them by guards).

Asked if he thought the big men could have done more damage inside, DeChellis offered this bit of insight: “We would have liked to, (it) just didn't happen.”

As usual, he focused on Penn State's overall defensive lapses, and with good reason. Leading 24-13 with 6:51 left in the first half, the Lions gave up a 14-0 run to trail 27-24 at the break. That included a stretch of three uncontested Michigan 3-pointers. Two were by Stu Douglass and one was by Matt Vogrich, a pair of catch-and-shoot specialists.

In the second half, PSU led 46-36 with 8:15 remaining, only to see Douglass spark another run with two more 3-pointers. Then Tim Hardaway Jr. made back-to-back triples as the clock ticked down toward the final media timeout to tie it at 53-53.

The Wolverines were 9 of 19 from the arc in the game.

“A team like Michigan, they're never out of the game because they shoot the ball so well from three,” Battle said. “We just stand there with our hands down. It's so disappointing.”

From there, athletic guard Darius Morris took over, slashing to the rim for consecutive baskets to give the Wolverines a 57-53 lead at the 3:12 mark.

Battle made it 57-56 with a conventional 3-point play 38 seconds later, only to see Michigan center Jordan Morgan counter with an uncontested dunk. The Lions trailed 59-56 with 2:12 showing and -- astonishingly -- fans began heading for the exits.

Michigan made 56 percent of its shots and 55.6 percent of its 3-point attempts in the second half.

“Defensively, the last seven or eight minutes, we didn't stop them,” DeChellis said.

Penn State set a season-high by launching 28 triples (and making 10). That was partially a product of a new starting lineup that saw 6-5 junior guard Cammeron Woodyard replacing the 6-8 Brooks. Woodyard tallied a career-high 10 points but made only 2 of 8 shots from the arc.

Indeed, while PSU was cooking from long range to start the second half, the approach turned into fool's gold. The Lions missed all four of their 3-point tries in the final 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, seniors Jackson and Jones each attempted one shot in the second half. Battle and Woodyard each finished with more rebounds (seven) than either of them.

In the locker room afterward, DeChellis asked if anyone wanted to address the team. And the one senior who is never afraid to step up - on the floor or off -- did so.

“We just played soft, we lacked toughness,” Battle said. “I'm not gonna beat around the bush. We didn't make the toughness plays. We didn't make one stop.”

“We deserved to lose today,” he added.

At least some of them did.

“Time's running out,” Battle said. “I'm upset about this one.”

SHORT SHOTS

• With 1,977 points, Battle is now just nine behind Joe Crispin for second place on Penn State's all-time scoring list. The career leader is Jesse Arnelle (2,138).

• DeChellis said there was no chance Brooks would play Sunday, even though PSU listed him as day-to-day leading up to the game. The coach is not sure if Brooks will be ready for Thursday's game at Michigan State.

• PSU point guard Tim Frazier left the game in the final two minutes after taking an elbow that caused a cut on his head. He did not return.

• In two games against Michigan this year, Jones had a total of three points and five rebounds.

• Morris led Michigan (14-10, 4-7) with 23 points, while Douglas (14) and Hardaway (13) were also in doubles.


Fight On State Top Stories