WASHINGTON D.C. — No. 13 seed Penn State (15-18) fell to No. 5 seed Michigan State (19-13) in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament here Thursday.
Here is our take on the action from Verizon Center.
LIONS HAVE NO LEGS
Though the Nittany Lions had a disappointing regular season, heading into Big Tens it was clear they had the ability to beat anyone in the conference. They had previous wins over the Spartans, as well as No. 2 seed Maryland and No. 4 seed Minnesota. They had lost in overtime to No. 1 seed Purdue.
But there is a big difference between winning ONE game against anybody in the league and winning multiple games in the tournament. And that became clear Thursday.
Sixth-year coach Pat Chambers starts two true freshmen, one redshirt freshman and a sophomore.
And after all of the juice the young team showed in an overtime victory over No. 12 seed Nebraska Wednesday afternoon, there was nothing left in the proverbial tank Thursday.
Rookies Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens combined to go 4 of 19 from the floor in the first half, when things got away from the Lions. After blocking a B1G Tournament record eight shots in the opener, redshirt frosh Mike Watkins was a step slow vs. Sparty. He found himself in early foul trouble and never really factored into things.
And sophomore Josh Reaves, who turned an ankle Wednesday but started Thursday, looked like someone who … well … had turned an ankle. The conference steals leader in the regular season had none in until the final minute of the game Thursday.
Come to think of it, as a team PSU had one steal through 37 and a half minutes. The Lions had zero fast-break points. They had eight offensive rebounds on 39 missed shots. They had three blocked shots as a team even though MSU scored 34 points in the paint.
The biggest criticism has to be that the poor offensive performance — as so often happens — led to terrible defense. And no matter how tired a team might be, there's really no excuse for that.
Just reading Chambers' body language in the first half, it was easy to see that the Nittany Lions had no shot. As Michigan State slowly built its lead to 35-15, Chambers was not nearly as animated as usual. He was not riding his team.
Because he knew what was wrong.
“I was worried,” he said. “I was coaching and teaching. My whole thing was I could tell we didn't have the juice. We had some fatigue and dead legs, whatever you want to call it. That's why I wish we didn't go into overtime (vs. Nebraska Wednesday) — maybe we would have had a little more energy. We can't make that excuse — we're competitors and we have to fight.
“But when I saw the first six to eight minutes, the way it was gonna go, it was all about teaching,” he added. “It was all about coaching. It was all about developing emerging leaders.”
If you turned the game off, you may have missed an interesting turn of events late.
With 14 seconds to go and MSU up 74-51, official Terry Wymer whistled Reaves for fouling Spartan scrub Conner George. Using slightly colorful language, Stevens reportedly told Wymer it was ridiculous to call a foul when both teams were going through the motions to run out the clock.
Stevens was hit with a technical. And by the letter of the law, he deserved it.
Carr then chimed in with a choice word or two. And he was popped with a technical. And by the letter of the law, he deserved it, too.
But since I'm not in danger of being T'd up, I can go ahead and say it. That whole scenario was BS by Wymer and the officiating crew in general.
The game was over. No one was in danger of being hurt. And a couple of kids who were frustrated that their season was about to end lost their cool — verbally.
The best officials swallow their whistles in such situations. And they tell the youngsters to shut up. Then the game ends and that's that.
The upside of it was that the walk-on George went to the line and shot six free throws, making four. He had two points on the season going into the game.
IZZO CLASSY IN VICTORY
Michigan State could have scored A LOT more points in this game. But Spartan coach Tom Izzo and company eased up when it was clear the outcome was in hand.
Leading 71-43 with 7:22 remaining, Sparty would not score again until reserve guard Cassius Winston hit a 3-pointer with 1:54 to go. The final four points came when George made the late free throws.
So this was anything but a case of one team pouring it on.
CHANGE OF VENUE
This game was a far cry from Penn State's 72-63 win over Michigan State back on Jan. 7. And we're not only talking about the way the two teams played.
The first game, you may recall, was played at The Palestra in Philadelphia, as Izzo agreed to have a PSU game moved to the historic facility in part so he could get a chance to coach there.
The atmosphere was electric and extremely pro-Penn State. To say it helped fuel the Lions to victory would be an understatement.
It was a completely different scene at a (maybe) half full Verizon Center here Thursday. As little energy as the Lions showed on the floor, there was even less in the stands.
No, we're not suggesting PSU would have won this game had the tourney been played in Philadelphia.
It just served as a reminder of how great the atmosphere was in Philly earlier in the season.
IN THE HOUSE
Former Lions Jon Crispin (a BTN analyst), Joe Crispin and Jarrett Stevens were all on hand for the game. Which meant Penn State could have done some serious damage had there been an alumni tournament.
Unfortunately for Chambers, none had any remaining eligibility left.
Also on hand was former PSU football player Tyoka Jackson.