EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)—Shannon Brown followed instructions and his teammates followed him.
“All Coach Izzo said at halftime was, ‘It’s time for you to take over,”’ Brown said. “All I said was, ‘I got you.”’
Brown scored 23 of his 29 points in the second half to lift No. 11 Michigan State, playing without center Paul Davis, to a 69-60 victory over Penn State on Saturday.
“Shannon Brown does have a knack for rising to the occasion in big games,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “He kind of thrives on the pressure. When I told him he had to take over a little bit, he did it in such a controlled way—even with that dunk he had, one of the best I’ve ever seen here.”
Brown had 10 points in the first 4 1/2 minutes of the second half for the Spartans (16-5, 4-3 Big Ten), who shot 61 percent from the field after halftime as they barely recovered from Wednesday’s crushing loss at Michigan.
“Whew, that was close,” Brown said. “We missed a lot of great shots and a lot of rebounds. We had to do something. And that dunk I had was an energizing thing. When the crowd went crazy, my teammates went crazy.”
Drew Neitzel of Michigan State had 16 of his career-high 19 points in the second half, including two big 3-pointers late. He and Brown had all 14 of the Spartans’ second-half baskets.
“In the first half I wasn’t shooting the ball,” Neitzel said. “Coach said we were shooting so many 3s. And we were. But they were all good looks. I thought 99 percent of them were going to fall.”
Michigan State was an uncharacteristic 11-for-30 beyond the arc against Penn State’s zone. Neitzel was 5-for-8 and Brown was 4-for-8, but Maurice Ager, the league’s No. 2 scorer, was 2-for-13 from long range.
“I had more open looks than I’ve had all season,” Ager said after a 3-for-19 day overall. “Those other two guys stepped up and saved me, no question. After the game I thanked them big-time.”
Davis, fifth in the Big Ten in scoring and second in rebounding, did not play after feeling lightheaded before the game. He was elbowed in the head by teammate Idong Ibok at Friday’s practice and had 10 stitches.
Geary Claxton had 19 points and Mike Walker added 13 for the Nittany Lions (10-8, 2-5), who looked nothing like the team that lost by 29 points at Wisconsin on Wednesday.
With no starter taller than 6-foot-6, Penn State took full advantage of Davis’ absence and a 3-for-14 shooting first half by the struggling Ager to take a 32-27 halftime lead.
“We competed hard and had a chance to win,” Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. “We had the lead and couldn’t hit a shot when we needed it. And we couldn’t find Shannon Brown in the second half.”
Brown brought Michigan State back with 3-pointers, spectacular dunks and free throws before Neitzel finished the job. But the Nittany Lions still led 58-57 before Ager hit two free throws to trigger a 12-2 run.
Penn State outrebounded Michigan State 36-30 but fell to 0-15 in the series. DeChellis dropped to 0-9 against Izzo.
“When you play a game like that against a guy as classy as Ed DeChellis and your team struggles the way we did, you almost feel bad about winning,” Izzo said. “It wasn’t pretty. But we found a way to get it done.”