Another Wasted Effort

Battle's 30-point day goes for naught as Nittany Lions fall to 0-12 in the Big Ten following a 65-54 loss to Michigan State before a big crowd at the Jordan Center.

For anyone who turned on ESPN to see Penn State tangle with No. 10 Michigan State at the Jordan Center Saturday, the feeling they took away from the game probably had a lot to do with their expectations going into it.

Those hoping for a shootout between Nittany Lion star Talor Battle and Spartan counterpart Kalin Lucas got it, as the former went off for 30 points, five rebounds and five assists, while the latter tallied 24, two and six.

Those hoping for a competitive affair kind of got it, as the score was knotted 46-46 with about 12 minutes left.

Those hoping for Penn State to secure its first Big Ten victory of the season following an 0-11 start to conference play were out of luck, as the Nittany Lions self-destructed in the clutch (again) on the way to a 65-54 defeat. The streak of futility has now reached a dirty dozen for PSU, which is 8-16 overall.

“It's definitely not a fun feeling because we've felt it so many times this year,” said Battle, who outscored the rest of his team by six points.

“I thought Talor was outstanding,” PSU coach Ed DeChellis added. “He kept us in the game, made some big plays, and he's done it all year.”

Unfortunately for the Lions, another theme to their season has been a lack of support for Battle, the Big Ten's leading scorer at better than 19 points per game. Penn State remains the only BCS conference team that does sport at least two players who average in double figures in scoring.

And that was ultimately PSU's downfall in this game.

Lucas was on fire early, scoring eight of Michigan State's first 10 points. But then Battle went off. Over a six-minute span he netted 12 points, capped by a 28-footer from the BJC logo near the scorers' table.

Yet the Spartans still led 31-25 at the half and boosted the lead to 34-25 when Chris Allen opened the second period with a bomb. Then things really got fun. Battle nailed a 3-pointer, then Lucas hit one of his own, then Battle drilled another one -- all in less than a minute and a half. MSU still led 39-33 with 17:44 remaining.

The season-best crowd of 14,017 at the BJC oooohed and aaaaahed as Battle and Lucas traded blows.

“It was a great matchup,” DeChellis said. “Both kids are very good players; they're both first-team All-Big Ten players. It was fun to watch. They were going at it hard and tough.”

Battle finally got some help over the next few minutes as David Jackson (two 3-pointers) Chris Babb (one triple) and Jeff Brooks (a short jumper) fueled a 13-5 run that put the Lions in front 46-44 with 12:23 left.

And that was the end of the highlight reel for Penn State, which failed to score over the next six and a half minutes. And it wasn't just a matter of missing shots, but being unable to generate even decent looks before trying to beat the shot clock.

Spartan coach Tom Izzo, whose team had lost three straight coming into this one, lauded its defensive effort. He talked up a former walk-on named Mike Kebler for being “awfully good” in his role of hawking Battle during the Lions' dry spell.

But it doesn't take a future hall-of-fame coach to realize that the best way to stop Penn State is to switch out on the one effective weapon the Lions have - Battle. And that was more the story of what happened as the game deteriorated than any one player containing him.

When Battle struggled to escape the added attention, his teammates wilted. Again.

“Somebody's got to make a play,” DeChellis said, presumably meaning somebody else. “And that's where it starts to slip away.”

Lucas, who was making his first start since missing one game then coming off the bench in another due to an ankle injury, got just enough help to make a difference. Allen finished with 14 points and the Spartan bench outscored Penn State's 13-1.

“It's hard to play well against good teams without your quarterback,” Izzo said, referring to Lucas and the time he missed recently. “And our quarterback might have played his best game of the year.”

Penn State's quarterback had a heck of an effort, too. But the Lions are going to be hard-pressed to change their losing ways until he finds a few capable targets.

Asked if the difference in this game boiled down to the two stars' respective support casts, DeChellis could only shrug when he said, “Right now, that's the way it looks.”


• More that a smattering of boos erupted as the Spartans were dribbling away the final seconds of the game. They appeared to be directed at the poor finish by the home team.

• Michigan State improved to 20-6 and 10-3.

• Jackson was the only other Lion in doubles with 10 points, meaning he and Battle combined for 40 points while eight teammates who saw the floor contributed a grand total of 14.

• PSU starting center Andrew Jones' streak of 13 games without a blocked shot ended when he had two in the first half. The 6-foot-10 junior's last block came in a Dec. 12 loss to Virginia Tech. He logged 272 minutes and 35 seconds of floor time without a block between swats.

• Penn State is at Northwestern Wednesday for an 8:30 p.m. tip.

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