No. 7 Michigan St. holds off Penn St. 78-73
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP)—Two of the Big Ten’s best young point guards dueled down the stretch of a tight game.
In the end, Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas stepped up at the free throw line to stave off a furious comeback by Penn State and counterpart Talor Battle.
Lucas went 6-of-8 from the line in the final 2 minutes and Raymar Morgan scored 17 points as the seventh-ranked Spartans nearly gave up a 17-point lead before holding on for a 78-73 victory Wednesday night.
“We had our hands full,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “We were lucky to win.”
Goran Suton added 13 points and 14 rebounds for the Spartans (14-2, 4-0 Big Ten), who won their 10th straight and are off to their best conference start since 1977-78.
Down by 17 points with 13:39 left, Penn State (13-5, 2-3) mounted a furious comeback, getting within 71-70 with 1:30 left after an off-balance 3 from Battle.
He fell to the court as the shot went through the hoop, whipping the crowd into a frenzied chorus of “Let’s go State!”
“That run may not have been as possible without those guys cheering us on, giving us that little extra boost,” said Battle, who credited the more athletic Spartans for tiring Penn State out early.
“We had them right there on the ropes,” Battle said.
But the Nittany Lions couldn’t break through as Lucas, who finished with 15 points, hit four free throws after Battle’s 3.
Both Battle and Lucas are lightning-quick sophomore guards who can blow by defenders and create open shots for teammates. They’re two of the top scoring guards in the Big Ten.
Jamelle Cornley led the Nittany Lions with a career-high 26 points, while Battle finished with 20.
But Lucas had a little more help, with four Spartans scoring in double figures.
In typical Michigan State fashion, the Spartans also outrebounded Penn State 41-24. They controlled the lane, especially during a 26-8 run over the last 11:10 of the first half, which included a 7-minute field goal drought for Penn State.
The Spartans seemingly couldn’t miss, getting easy drives and hitting open jumpers in taking a 42-29 halftime lead. The lead climbed to 55-38 after Durrell Summers’ free throw with 13:39 left in the game.
“We stopped defending, I guess,” Battle said. “Coach (Ed DeChellis) was livid at us at halftime.”
DeChellis was a little more subdued after the game.
“I don’t know what word we used, but I just wasn’t happy with our defense in the first half,” he said. “I thought we were playing against them instead of them playing against us.”
Penn State played dreadful spurts of interior defense midway through the game before clamping down in the second half, setting up the tense closing minutes between Lucas and Battle.
Battle hit a jumper to close the deficit to four with 3:33 left.
Then he darted into the lane before hitting Cornley for an open layup to get within 69-67 with about 2:30 left.
Izzo said his team suffered from offensive lulls, and got frustrated by Battle down the stretch.
“Yeah, I’m disappointed we’re still not finishing,” Izzo said. “We have to do a better job of finishing.”
The loss snapped Penn State’s seven-game winning streak at home against Big Ten opponents.