Penn St.-Michigan Preview

The Associated Press

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- - Jordan Morgan watched his last-second putback roll off the rim, and for a little while, everything was a blur.

He and his Michigan teammates left the court, a point short of a Big Ten championship - and the 6-foot-8 Morgan tried to forget that frantic finish as quickly as possible.

''I went home and watched 'Space Jam,''' Morgan said. ''Laughter is the best healer.''

Still smarting from their 72-71 loss to Indiana on Sunday, the sixth-ranked Wolverines (25-6, 12-6) now need to regroup. A win would have given Michigan a share of the conference title. Instead, the Wolverines won't even have a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament. They'll start Thursday against Penn State (10-20, 2-16).

The Nittany Lions upset Michigan 84-78 a couple weeks ago. In fact, to reach the Big Ten title game, the Wolverines may need to beat Penn State, Wisconsin and Indiana, teams that have handed Michigan four of its defeats this season.

''Wherever we go in this tournament, we're just going to make the best of it,'' coach John Beilein said. ''We've got a lot of things still to address. We're addressing them and doing them as fast as we can.''

Michigan led Indiana by five before a few missed free throws allowed the Hoosiers to rally. Trey Burke, the conference player of the year, had a chance to win it for the Wolverines, but his driving attempt missed and Morgan's follow-up did, too.

It was an agonizing way to lose, but the Wolverines didn't help themselves by letting Indiana come up with 24 offensive rebounds.

Now the Wolverines will try to avenge their most surprising loss of the season. They squandered a 15-point second-half lead to Penn State and were somewhat fortunate just to get back in the title race.

If Michigan beats Penn State, the Wolverines will take on Wisconsin. Michigan lost to the Badgers last month after Wisconsin's Ben Brust made a buzzer-beater from near midcourt to send the game into overtime.

The Big Ten tournament is sandwiched between the league's thrilling regular-season race and the drama still to come in the NCAA tournament. But that doesn't mean it will be totally overshadowed, and for Michigan, every game is a chance to improve.

''It's that time of the year,'' Beilein said. ''If you don't play well in a game, your season will be over or your tournament will be over. That's how simple it is.''

Michigan had won five straight over Penn State before the Feb. 27 upset. The Nittany Lions' two conference wins came in the last four games, and they came very close to adding another in their regular season finale before falling 63-60 to No. 22 Wisconsin at home Sunday.

Traevon Jackson sank Penn State with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer as the Badgers held off the upset bid. Jermaine Marshall had 23 points and fellow starting guard D.J. Newbill scored 22 for the Lions.

"Just watching Penn State, it's a whole different team than it was early in the season," said Beilein, whose team defeated the Lions 79-71 at home Feb. 17. "Six of their last seven games, they have showed that they can beat anyone. ... They have played us twice very tough."

Marshall has reached the 20-point mark three times in his last five games. He's averaged 23.0 points and 7.0 rebounds in his past three against the Wolverines, scoring a game-high 25 and going 6 for 10 from 3-point range in the latest matchup.

"We're confident right now," Newbill told the team's website. "We're playing fearless basketball and we're playing more together. We're just ready to go out there and play."

What to Read Next