For the first time since Big Ten play began, they were right.
In an upset nearly as seismic as TCU's shocker over Kansas earlier this month, Penn State rallied from 15 points down in the final 11 minutes to stun fourth-ranked Michigan 84-78. The Nittany Lions were 0-14 in the Big Ten prior to Wednesday, though five of their past six losses had been by less than 10 points.
It was Jermaine Marshall's outside shooting and dribble penetration that spearheaded Penn State's 33-12 game-ending blitz. Marshall had 16 of his game-high 25 points during that stretch, including a game-tying 3-pointer with 4:58 to play and a driving layup almost four minutes later that extended the Nittany Lions' lead to three.
If Michigan thought it had the game won midway through the second half and shifted into cruise control, then the Wolverines were unable to reenter high gear when they needed it. Glenn Robinson III missed a layup and a 3-pointer in the final minute, dooming Michigan to a loss that damages its hopes of a Big Ten title and perhaps a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
At 23-5 overall and 10-5 in the Big Ten, Michigan is now two games behind first-place Indiana and a game behind Michigan State and Wisconsin. The Wolverines can play their way back into striking distance for a No. 1 seed with home wins over Michigan State and Indiana and a road win at Purdue to close the regular season, but they'd still need help from other teams to earn even a share of the Big Ten title.
Perhaps the conference title is less of a concern for Michigan right now then how it's limping to the finish line. The Wolverines have lost four of their last seven after a 20-1 start, though all of those were on the road and the previous three came against NCAA tournament-bound foes.
What makes the Penn State loss especially hard to fathom is that Michigan shot 51.7 percent from the field and got to the foul line 20 times. That wasn't enough, however, because the Wolverines committed 15 turnovers, shot only 25 percent from 3-point range and allowed typically anemic Penn State to knock down 10 of 20 3-pointers.
If Kansas-TCU was the equivalent of a No. 16 seed toppling a No 1, then Wednesday night was probably similar to a No. 15 upsetting a No. 2.
Already expected to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten even before leading scorer Tim Frazier went down with a season-ending knee injury four games into the season, Penn State has been especially overmatched without him. D.J. Newbill and Marshall have picked up the slack to an extent, but the Nittany Lions have had to play hard every night just to be competitive in the nation's toughest conference.
It's a testament to coach Pat Chambers that Penn State hasn't given up on a season that has been essentially hopeless for weeks. On Wednesday, that effort was finally rewarded with a victory.
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