Nittany Lions Feel the Payne

No. 18 Michigan State's hole-in-the-wall gang gets a boost from a brawling big man to turn back Penn State and spoil career games by Marshall and Newbill.

No. 18 Michigan State put a dent in the Nittany Lion Inn Wednesday morning. Wednesday evening, the Spartans inflicted Payne on the Nittany Lion basketball team at the Jordan Center.

MSU forward Adreian Payne sat for the first 23 minutes of the game against Penn State as punishment for a morning fight with a teammate that damaged a wall at the team hotel and resulted in police being called to the scene.

But Payne dominated the action once he took the floor at the 16:37 mark of the second half, scoring 16 points in less than six minutes as the Spartans (15-3, 4-1 Big Ten) broke open a tight game on the way to an 81-72 victory.

“He hit some great shots,” PSU coach Pat Chambers said. “Fade-away 15-footers, threes. … He was energized obviously by what happened so he was ready to go. He did some great things and we didn't have that punch-back when he came in.”

“I was excited,” said Payne, who finished with a career-high 20 points in less than 17 minutes overall. “I felt like a dog let out of a cage.”

The Nittany Lions, who played their best basketball of the Big Ten season before Payne and sparring partner Branden Dawson were finally allowed on the floor (and then again after Payne's scoring outburst) remained winless in the conference (0-5) and dropped below .500 overall (8-9).

The loss tarnished career-best scoring games by PSU guards Jermaine Marshall (29 points and 10 rebounds) and D.J. Newbill (27 points and six assists).

“We were just trying to will our team to a win,” Newbill said. “But we lost. So to us the numbers are just a shadow.”

Penn State led 36-35 when Marshall hit a layup with 15:16 left in the game. Fresh off the bench, the athletic 6-foot-10 Payne responded with his first bucket 15 seconds later -- a short jumper -- and MSU would never trail again. By the time Payne completed his 16-point barrage with 9:11 showing, the Lions were in a double-digit hole.

Payne would not make a field goal the rest of the way. But it didn't matter as his teammates were back in the flow.

Penn State, meanwhile, got outstanding efforts from Marshall and Newbill but virtually nothing from their teammates. With four minutes left in the game -- and MSU up a comfortable dozen -- Nittany Lions not named Marshall or Newbill had accounted for all of 14 points.

Penn State would eventually cut the lead to five twice in the final two minutes (71-66 and 73-68), both on Marshall slashes to the basket. But MSU responded both times and eventually locked up the win by making 9 of 10 free throws in the final 42 seconds.

“We need help from some other positions,” Chambers said. “Guys need to step up. We can't be a two-man show all season long.”

And yet even with only two men doing the bulk of the heavy lifting, Penn State finally found its offensive rhythm in a conference game. In four previous Big Ten outings, the Lions averaged 49.5 points.

But as the offense improved, the defense -- which had been solid in spots -- struggled. Michigan State scored 52 points and did not commit a turnover in the second half.

“For us to get 72 (points), we haven't seen that in a long time,” Chambers said. “We need to get stops. We had a great opportunity tonight. I felt like we let one slip away.”


• No charges stemmed from the hotel scuffle between road roommates Payne and Dawson at the Nittany Lion Inn. MSU coach Tom Izzo, who made the duo face a packed media room after the game, said they will pay for a hole they created after they crashed into a wall. Both players apologized profusely for the incident. “I feel embarrassed and I want to apologize to Penn State and our program,” Payne said.

• Marshall and Newbill are not only doing all of the scoring for Penn State. In Big Ten play, they have accounted for 31 of the Lions' 41 assists. All of the team's forwards and centers combined have three assists in five Big Ten games.

• Speaking of which, MSU starting center Derrick Nix had four assists in 31 minutes Wednesday.

• More on the assist front: Marshall and Newbill combined for 18 field goals Wednesday. Thirteen of them came without assists. And of the five buckets that were assisted, four of them came on passes from Newbill to Marshall. So of the 18 shots the duo made, their teammates set up exactly one -- a pass from guard Nick Colella to Marshall.

• Along those lines, Izzo went out of his way to mention how much Penn State misses All-Big Ten point guard Tim Frazier, who is out for the year with a ruptured Achilles' tendon. In doing so, however, he all but stated the obvious -- that PSU is in deep trouble in the Big Ten without Frazier. “(Chambers) is building a program. I'm looking at that player in a suit who was there today (Frazer on the bench) and that player would make a big difference on this team. Those of you (media types) up here don't forget that, because with those two wing guys and a player of his caliber at the point, it's going to be an impressive team next year. I think they're going to get a lot better.”

• The Lions' starting frontcourt of Brandon Taylor (0 of 6), Ross Travis (1 of 2) and Sasa Borovnjak (1 of 5) scored six total points.

• After combining for 54 points in the first half, PSU and MSU combined for 99 in the second.

• Two of the better offensive rebounding teams in the Big Ten, Michigan State (seven) and Penn State (four) combined for only 11 Wednesday.

• Penn State is back in action Saturday when Nebraska visits the BJC for a 1 p.m. tip.

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