Glass Half Empty: Lions Fall to No. 5 MSU

Penn State's impressive first half goes for naught as the Spartans cruise to victory in the Big Ten opener at the Jordan Center.

Penn State didn't have to wait until the start of the new year for the clock to strike midnight Tuesday. It happened about six hours earlier, at halftime of the Nittany Lions' Big Ten opener against No. 5 Michigan State at the Jordan Center.

In a rare 5 p.m. tip due to the holiday, the teams traded offensive haymakers in a thoroughly entertaining opening half. With everything going right -- threes were falling (7 of 12), free throws were pure (10 of 10) and even defense led to offense (nine forced turnovers resulted in 13 points) -- Penn State enjoyed a 47-40 lead at the break.

“The team I envisioned played in the first half,” PSU coach Pat Chambers said. “We can be a good team and compete in this league.”

But things fell apart quickly at the start of the second half, as Tom Izzo's powerhouse Spartans (12-1, 1-0) sent the new look Nittany Lions (9-5, 0-1) reeling to a 79-63 defeat.

The math on that: MSU outscored Penn State 39-16 in the final half. And it all started with a 10-0 run out of the locker room.

“I threatened them,” Izzo said of his halftime speech. “Told them we were staying here tonight for New Year's. Everything is closed down here, so it would have been a good place to keep 'em.”

He sounded like he was only half joking.

The Spartans responded, closing down and then closing out the Nittany Lions. After lighting it up from the arc in the first half, Penn State missed its first two triple attempts of the second half to set a negative tone for the remainder of the game.

Missed shots led to shrugging shoulders. The Lions, including star guard Tim Frazier, began turning the ball over. Then they struggled on defense and got lazy on the boards.

Incredibly, after being within one in the rebound battle (17-16) at the half, the Lions ended up losing the overall war 45-26.

“This has got to be a learning experience; we have to learn a lot from this,” Chambers said. “We do have a chance (to improve), but emotionally, we have to get way tougher. (The Spartans) were tougher and they showed it.”

Both teams were hot from the start, and fans from both (and there were plenty green-and-white shirts in the announced crowd of 7,397) were into it. After the teams combined for 19 points in a three-minute span midway through the first half, Lion Ross Travis called a timeout while falling out of bounds.

As both sides went to their respective benches, the entire arena -- PSU and MSU fans -- rose for a standing ovation. It was impressive stuff, considering the Penn State students were away on holiday break.

The Lions generally controlled things until halftime, using a press to fluster the Spartans. The lead was as big as a dozen (45-33 at 1:12) before MSU tightened it up with a bit of a rally.

“They blitzed us in every way, shape and form,” Izzo said.

The Spartans returned the favor and then some in the final 20 minutes, leading by as many as 19 and never appearing to be seriously threatened once they went in front.

“We played great for 20 minutes, but the game is 40 minutes,” said guard D.J. Newbill, who scored all but three of his 17 points in the first half.

Added Chambers: “I'm proud of the way we competed for 20-25 minutes. Unfortunately the game is 40.”


• Frazier had his worst game of the year with seven points, five assists and four turnovers. MSU used its speedy guards to track him and big men to hedge out. He made only 3 of 12 shots.

• Forward Brandon Taylor had 18 for Penn State, but only two in the second half.

• Forward Brandon Dawson led the Spartans with 20 points. Guards Keith Appling (14) and Gary Harris (13) were also in doubles.

• After going 10 of 10 from the line in the first half, Penn State went just 4 of 12 in the second.

• The Lions got only six points from their bench.

• Next up for Penn State is a trip to Illinois Saturday. The game tips at 2:15 p.m. and can be seen on BTN.

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