Lions Whipped by Michigan State

Penn State gives its best home crowd of the season little to cheer for in rolling over vs. Spartans. The Nittany Lions' preseason goal of advancing to the NCAA tournament takes another major hit with the 27-point loss.

The beat goes on for the Penn State basketball team, and not in a good way. The Nittany Lions, you see, sustained their second straight beat-down and fourth consecutive loss overall at a hopping Jordan Center Saturday afternoon, falling to Michigan State, 91-64.

And it wasn't even that close.

“We laid the biggest egg we've laid in several years,” said PSU coach Ed DeChellis, referring to his team's meek showing despite playing before a pumped up crowd of 13,347.

Added forward Jamelle Cornley, the only Lion to produce (21 points): “You can't have that many people here and put on a showing like we did and expect them to come back.”

Michigan State, in full-blown rebuilding mode under Tom Izzo, entered the game at a pedestrian 2-2 in the conference and 0-3 on the road. But the Spartans proved that “rebuilding” is a relative term, dominating Penn State in every aspect.

They shot 68 percent from the floor, missing only 17 shots. They outrebounded the Nittany Lions 33-19. And while this was by far the largest crowd of the season at the BJC, the MSU student section — The Izzone — was a much stronger vocal presence than its PSU counterpart — The Nittwits — even though the former was relegated to one small corner section of the building.

“You can't blame them,” Cornley said of the Penn State student section. “We did this to ourselves.”

No play in this game was more telling than Drew Neitzel's 20-footer with just under eight minutes to go in the first half. That MSU's leading scorer made the 3-pointer wasn't exactly breaking news -- he went off for a game-high 28 on 11-of-17 shooting.

On this play, however, Spartan teammate Travis Walton fell to the floor with a twisted ankle before his team hit half court. Undeterred, Neitzel and company remained in attack mode, even though they were outmanned five to four. The Spartans quickly zipped the ball around until finding the 6-foot guard and he made a wide-open shot to give MSU a 29-13 cushion.

On the day, Michigan State (16-4, 3-2) went 36 of 53 from the field, 6 of 12 from the arc and — for good measure — 13 of 13 from the line.

“This is the best we've played all year and it wasn't just because of them,” Izzo said, adding that he felt that the Lions were victims of bad luck recently in that Michigan caught fire from the floor in a 77-57 win over PSU in Ann Arbor Wednesday and then Michigan State followed with its best shooting game to date.

Penn State senior guard Ben Luber wasn't buying it, though.

“That's not bad luck,” Luber explained. “That's bad defense.”

“Bad” may be too mild of a word. MSU was up 22 (45-23) at the break. The lead exploded to as many as 31 in the second half (89-58), by which time the Spartans appeared to be running layup lines. Indeed, the 31-point edge came after MSU strung together three straight bunnies.

Though Penn State was clearly not a Big Ten title contender heading into this season, after losing only one significant player from 2005-06 there was reason to believe it could compete for an upper-division finish and NCAA tournament bid. This loss, which dropped the Lions to 10-8 overall and 1-4 in the league, pretty much snuffed out those thoughts.

The defeat was crushing for DeChellis on a couple of fronts. First, the team blew a chance to win over the throng of fans. Second, a year ago, Penn State seemed to have made serious strides in terms of tussling against the best of the Big Ten. The Lions beat Illinois on the road and gave then-No. 11 Michigan State a scare at the Breslin Center before losing, 69-60.

That Spartan team lost three players to the NBA draft. PSU, meanwhile, lost senior forward Travis Parker, who is now playing overseas. The balance of returning talent appeared to favor the Lions.

But it didn't play out that way. Not even close.

“I thought we were beyond a thrashing like this,” DeChellis said. “This was a thorough beating from start to finish.”

GAME NOTES

• DeChellis started Ben Luber at the point guard in place of David Jackson. It didn't help, as PSU fell into a quick 18-9 hole. “That didn't really pan out,” the coach said.

• Penn State had seven (count 'em) defensive rebounds in the game. Michigan State had 10 offensive boards.

• Former PSU football players and current Kansas City Chiefs Larry Johnson and Tamba Hali were both honored at halftime.

• Penn State is Iowa Wednesday.

See Penn State's Season Box Scores Here.

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