No. 10 Michigan State ends skid, beats Penn State
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP)—Kalin Lucas stumbled backward to the floor after hitting a shot, bounced right up and sprinted back on defense.
It was a pleasant sight for Michigan State coach Tom Izzo.
The reigning Big Ten Player of the Year scored 24 points in his return to the starting lineup, while Durrell Summers and Delvon Roe keyed a decisive second-half run to lead the 10th-ranked Spartans past Penn State 65-54 on Saturday to end a three-game losing streak.
“It’s hard to play well against good teams without your quarterback, and our quarterback might have played his best game of the year,” Izzo said. “As far as Kalin goes, he was under control.”
Lucas sprained his right ankle on Feb. 2, and missed one game for the Spartans (20-6, 10-3) before coming off the bench in a 76-64 loss to No. 6 Purdue on Tuesday.
The only sign that the ankle may have bothered the point guard was when he adjusted the wrap and gauze on his leg before pre-game warmups.
Otherwise, Lucas darted around the court as if he were completely healthy. He pronounced himself afterward about 80 percent, but it was enough to keep up with Talor Battle, his point guard counterpart at Penn State (8-16, 0-12), who finished with 30 points.
“I was fine in the first half and I just kept trying to move it around,” Lucas said about his injury. “The second half I was good, too.”
So was Michigan State’s defense, especially after David Jackson’s open 3 from the right corner gave Penn State a 46-44 lead with 12:24 left. A near-capacity crowd of more than 14,000 went into hysterics in hopes of witnessing an unlikely upset.
Instead, Penn State fell into a tailspin, going more than 6 minutes without a field goal. Summers scored the next seven points, and Roe finished the 13-0 run with three straight baskets to help Michigan State regain control.
By the time Lucas hit a 3 with 4:59 left, the Spartans had a 60-48 lead.
“They locked in defensively really well, and at the same time we didn’t execute offensively,” said Battle, who posted his fourth 30-point game of the season.
Lucas and Battle put on an entertaining show in a matchup of two of the league’s quickest guards. Battle finished 7 of 11 from 3-point range, but the Nittany Lions still extended their school-worst start in league play and their longest losing streak in four seasons.
Penn State hung tight with an opponent before collapsing late in the second half—a familiar theme during this miserable season in Happy Valley.
“We couldn’t score, we couldn’t shake them,” Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. “Whatever we called, we couldn’t execute it, they turned it up and we didn’t respond like we needed to.”
Long-range shooting kept Penn State in the game early in spite of getting outrebounded 38-24 by the Big Ten’s best rebounding team.
Battle, Penn State’s do-everything star, hit some NBA-range 3s and drew extra defensive attention to help get teammates open. That happened when Jackson hit his 3 to give Penn State its short-lived lead.
Izzo said his team stepped up its defensive intensity after that basket, especially on the perimeter, where he credited Lucas, Chris Allen and little-used backup Mike Kebler for their efforts.
Conversely, Penn State again couldn’t find a consistent scorer outside of Battle.
“That 6- or 7-minute stretch defensively was maybe our best 6 or 7 minutes that we’ve played all year,” Izzo said.
Already facing questions at point guard because of Lucas’ status, the Spartans played Saturday without backup Korie Lucious. Team spokesman Matt Larson said Lucious didn’t make the trip after “failing to meet” academic obligations, though it was not an issue with eligibility.
But Lucas proved his ankle was more than healthy enough to help his team get out of a three-game tailspin that loosened the Spartans’ grip on first place in the conference. Kebler held his own at guard when Lucas wasn’t on the court.
Allen had 14 points for Michigan State. Jackson added 10 for the Nittany Lions.