Lions' Upset Bid Spoiled

Penn State had a chance to knock the Spartans out of the Big Ten title mix but late mistakes proved costly.

Penn State had its chances to spoil Michigan State's Big Ten title hopes in East Lansing Thursday night. But in a game that came down to the wire, the Nittany Lions could not seize the opportunities when they presented themselves.

No. 11 MSU, which needed a win to remain in the hunt for a share of the conference crown, pulled out a harrowing 67-65 victory to improve to 23-7 and 12-4 in the Big Ten. A win against Michigan Sunday will earn the Spartans a share of the title along with Ohio State and possibly Purdue.

Penn State (11-18, 3-14), meanwhile, was looking to win three straight Big Ten road games for the first time in school history. But instead, it fumbled away two golden opportunities to make things even more interesting in the final 20 seconds.

Trailing by as many as 10 early in the second half, the Lions methodically clawed their way back into it by using a 2-3 zone on defense and getting another balanced scoring effort on offense.

They actually led by two, 62-60, when guard Chris Babb made a pair of free throws with 2:32 remaining.

But then the pressure of the situation caught up with Penn State. MSU scored the next four points on a Draymond Green dunk and two Raymar Morgan free throws.

David Jackson missed an open 3-pointer for PSU with just under a minute remaining and the Spartans took over possession with the slim 64-62 lead. But then Jackson slapped the ball away from Durrell Summers and into the hands of Babb. Ahead of the pack at the time, Babb could not get a clean handle on the ball and slowed down.

The Spartans recovered and poked the ball away, and Summers emerged from the scrum with the steal with 15 seconds left. Morgan popped loose for a breakaway but was fouled by Lion Bill Edwards, and calmly made both free throws with 11 seconds showing to make it 66-62.

PSU point guard Talor Battle rushed up the floor and handed off to Babb, who bombed in a triple with eight seconds left. The Lions then fouled Kalin Lucas with five seconds remaining.

A 79-percent free-throw shooter going in, Lucas made the first and missed the second, extending the lead to 67-65.

Penn State appeared to have a chance to tie, but Battle bobbled the rebound and never recovered as he tried to sprint up the court. The buzzer sounded before he launched a shot from half court.

Battle led the Lions with 16 points, eight assists and six rebounds, but received plenty of help from his fellow starters. Babb had 16 points and five assists, while Jeff Brooks (14) and Jackson (13) also reached double figures in scoring.

Beyond the late mistakes, PSU was once again plagued by a lack of production from the bench, which contributed one point, five rebounds and no assists.

MSU only had one starter in doubles (Morgan with 16) but two others had nine points (Lucas and Summers), and the Spartan bench tallied 26 points. Fourteen of those came from Green.

Penn State was also annihilated on the glass, as Michigan State held a 39-24 advantage in that area.


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