Men’s basketball falls to Michigan, now 0-3 in conference

Story posted January 7, 2015 in Sports, CommRadio by Tia Pattillo

Despite Penn State’s best efforts from D.J. Newbill and bench players John Johnson and Geno Thorpe, the Michigan Wolverines (9-6, 2-1 B1G) handed Pat Chambers’ Nittany Lions (12-4, 0-3 B1G) their third straight conference loss. Penn State fell 73-64, Wednesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Michigan got off to an early start offensively, leading Penn State 10-2 through the first three minutes, showing early that Pat Chambers’ defense was going to struggle shutting down Michigan’s Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin. With the Wolverines coming out in tight man-to-man defense, the Nittany Lions struggled to put the ball in the hoop. John Johnson (16 points), Geno Thorpe (eight points), and Donovon Jack (nine points) came off the bench for Penn State and provided a much-needed spark on the offensive end.

After Michigan’s 14-4 run to end the half, Penn State went to the locker room trailing 36-29. The Penn State bench combined for 20 of the 29 points scored by the Nittany Lion offense, ten of those points coming from John Johnson. With D.J. Newbill scoring only six points in the first-half, Michigan’s Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin stole the show. 

Irvin and LeVert combined for 19 points and six rebounds in the first half. LeVert was able to use the long ball, knocking down both of his three point attempts, while Irvin was a solid inside presence for the Wolverines. Relying on the three-point shot, Michigan was 6-7 at half from beyond the arc.

Penn State overcame a double-digit deficit in the second-half to tie Michigan 53-53 with eight minutes left, converting on six Michigan turnovers. However, LeVert executed when it mattered. 

“He just took over the game,” said Pat Chambers of LeVert.

LeVert scored ten of his team-high 18 points in the last 16 minutes of the game. His breakaway dunk with 40 seconds to play was the exclamation point for the Michigan victory. Zak Irvin finished with 17 points, while also pulling down nine rebounds.

A major struggle for the Nittany Lion offense came from the frontcourt trio of Brandon Taylor, Ross Travis, and Jordan Dickerson. Combined, they were 2-17 from the field, and totaled five points. Being the team’s second-leading scorer, Taylor was the most notable lack of production, shooting just 1-10 from the field.

“We need production from those guys. There’s no doubt,” said Chambers. “We’ve got to start converting our go-to’s and counters and lay-ups. I thought our second half was really good. But we’ve got to start making these shots. We’ve got to start believing we can make these shots.” 

Despite 15 turnovers from the Michigan offense, Penn State was unable to execute in the final minutes. Michigan came out in a 1-3-1 defense, which created a confused and chaotic Nittany Lion offense. With under a minute to play, D.J. Newbill twice turned over the ball, allowing the Wolverines to pull away with an eight-point lead and seal the deal. 

“I tried to drive it, they got their hands on it,” said Newbill. “I thought I had a lane. They did a good job of closing the gap though.” Newbill’s second half play improved and he ended with a game-best 20 points.

After losing three consecutive games in Big Ten play, Chambers’ team is beginning to look like last year’s Nittany Lion team, who started conference play with six consecutive losses. Penn State has a week off before its next game and in that time, Chambers said he and his team will, “Reboot. Reset. And get back to work. It’s one game at a time.”

Penn State takes on Indiana in Bloomington Tuesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

(Photo credit: AP Photo/Centre Daily Times, Abby Drey) 

Tia Pattillo is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email tpp5065@psu.edu.