Penn State stays at No. 2 in AP poll after impressive win over Michigan

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Penn State stays at No. 2 in AP poll after impressive win over Michigan

Penn State looked like a bona fide National Championship contender Saturday in its blowout win over Michigan (see story)

That said, the Nittany Lions remained one spot behind unanimous No. 1 Alabama, who beat Tennessee on Saturday, at No. 2. In fact, the top eight teams remain the same from last week's poll, meaning that No. 3 Georgia, No. 4 TCU and No. 5 Wisconsin round out the top five.

With their statement win over the Wolverines, the Nittany Lions knocked Michigan, previously No. 19, entirely out of the Top 25.

Penn State faces its highest-ranked opponent of the season Saturday, when the Nittany Lions travel to Columbus, Ohio, to play No. 6 Ohio State. 

For this week's full AP poll, click here

Penn State can't recover from dismal 1st half

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Penn State can't recover from dismal 1st half

BOX SCORE

LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska made history Sunday night, setting a program record for conference wins and winning 22 games overall for just the third time in school history with its 76-64 victory over Penn State.

"It's a very important night, a historic night from what I'm hearing," said Nebraska coach Tim Miles. "I'm just really proud of these guys, to have that, at least, accomplished. Now certainly we have more goals and we want to go a lot farther. But I'm just happy that this night they can enjoy that and put that in their back pockets."

Nebraska (22-9, 13-5 Big Ten) clinched the No. 4 seed and double-bye into the quarterfinals of next week's conference tournament. The Huskers kept hopes alive for their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2014.

"I'm just glad we finished it, got that bye,' said Nebraska senior Anton Gill, who played his final regular season home game Sunday. "We're not going to New York to just play around. We want to win that, too. We really feel like we have the best team in the Big Ten. More wins would obviously help. But if you ask my opinion, we've proven throughout the year we're a tournament team."

The Huskers, who led by 17 at half, stretched their advantage to 49-28 on Gill's 3-pointer with about 13 minutes remaining. Then Penn State (19-10, 9-9) began to chip away at the lead behind Tony Carr, who had 19 of his 27 points in the second half.

The Nittany Lions cut the Nebraska advantage to 12 six times in the last 4:13, but got no closer.

"I'm really proud of my team the second half there," Penn State coach Pat Chambers said. "Obviously they jumped us. Give Tim (Floyd) and Nebraska credit, they've been playing really good basketball the last month and came out and punched us in the mouth."

Nebraska took control with a 17-3 first-half run, highlighted by three straight baby hooks by Jordy Tshimanga, going up 25-10 on Copeland's basket with 6:44 left in the half.

The Huskers had a 46-28 edge in points in the paint and outrebounded Penn State 45-28.

Isaiah Roby had 13 points for Nebraska and James Palmer Jr. and Glynn Watson Jr. had 11 points each.

Lamar Stevens had 13 points for Penn State and Shep Garner added 11.

Big Picture
Nebraska: With Sunday's win, the Huskers broke the school record for most conference wins in a season at 13. The previous mark of 12 conference wins was set in 1965-66 when Nebraska played in the Big Eight Conference and in 1915-16 when the Huskers were a member of the Missouri Valley Conference. Nebraska was undefeated at home in conference play for the ninth time in school history.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions played without Mike Watkins, the team's second leading scorer, who had 20 points and 15 rebounds in the Penn State's 76-74 overtime win over Nebraska in State College on Jan. 12.

Quotable
Nebraska's Evan Taylor on Senior Night -- "It was crazy. All my teammates were saying I was going to be the one to cry of all the seniors. I was "nah, nah, nah.' But in the tunnel, I got emotional. Everything I had to do to get here, it was a journey...I'm glad the whole community accepted me and we were able to finish strong."

Up Next
Nebraska will play in the conference tournament quarterfinals Friday.

Penn State will play Northwestern on Thursday in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.

This one truly hurts for Penn State

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USA Today Images

This one truly hurts for Penn State

BOX SCORE

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- John Beilein has always coveted the type of player with near-limitless energy reserve who can provide a scoring spark off the bench.

Michigan's coach has found his man this year.

Duncan Robinson supported No. 17 Michigan's starters with 19 points and helped the Wolverines beat Penn State 72-63 on Wednesday night.

"I've loved always having this, whether I was at Richmond, West Virginia, Canisius, the guy that can come off the bench with no conscience," Beilein said. "It's very hard to sit there for 10 minutes and then just go in and shoot. And he can do that."

Moritz Wagner added 18 and Jordan Poole had 13 for the Wolverines (23-7, 12-5 Big Ten) who won their fourth straight.

It got easier for the Wolverines just four minutes in when star Penn State forward Mike Watkins crumpled under Penn State's basket with an apparent right leg injury.

"That certainly was a factor in the game as well," Beilein said.

Tony Carr scored 21 points and Lamar Stevens added 19 for the Nittany Lions (19-11, 9-8) who trailed for all but about four minutes.

Michigan took control with a 25-12 run midway through the first and Robinson made Michigan's fifth of 10 3-pointers to put the Wolverines up by 13, their biggest lead of the game, with 3:52 left in the opening half. Back-to-back jumpers from Stevens cut Michigan's halftime lead to 34-26.

The Nittany Lions opened the second with a 13-4 run and took a 39-38 lead when Carr rolled a floater off his fingertips, drew a foul and made the free throw with 16:12 left.

"At halftime, we knew we didn't play well," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. "We were dealing with some adversity and I thought our guys competed and played hard, to come out and take the lead."

But the Wolverines went ahead for good on Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman's 3-pointer with 10:19 left. Michigan players combined to go 9-for-10 from the free throw line in the final minute to close out the game.

Watkins hurt
Watkins appeared to be in a good amount of discomfort as he was helped off the court.

Afterward, the forward spent a few minutes on a courtside exercise bike before returning to the bench with 9:28 to play. He lobbied Chambers to let him re-enter the game, but was clearly hobbled before Chambers pulled him out for good moments later.

Visibly upset, Watkins covered his face with a towel then entered the locker room before the half ended.

Chambers said he didn't have an update on Watkins other than the team would wait for test results on his right leg to come back later this week.

It was the second straight game -- and second straight loss -- where Watkins' presence was sorely missed. He found himself in early foul trouble against Purdue and played just nine minutes in Penn State's 76-73 loss.

"It's tough. They're a team that shoots a bunch of 3s. We weren't surprised that they shot the ball well."

Defending the 3
The Wolverines entered the game having made 264 3-pointers, good for second in the conference. They dropped 10 more on the Nittany Lions including a pair of back-to-back shots from Wagner that broke up Penn State's early second-half run.

They were big considering Beilein felt like his squad was squandering most of its chances early in the second.

"They just happened," Beilein said. "He got open, luckily, and he made them both and all of a sudden it's a 1-point game and we're still playing."

Robinson was 3-for-6 and hit the final 3-pointer to give the Wolverines' a 9-point lead with 1:28 left. Wagner was 4-for-5 from 3-point range while Poole added a pair.

"When you give up 10 3s to Michigan, It's going to be a tough outing for sure," Chambers said.

The big picture
Michigan: The Wolverines are guaranteed to be seeded no worse than fifth in the Big Ten tournament with the win. They'll have a chance to improve that as the teams above them in the standings No. 9 Purdue and Nebraska still have games remaining.

Penn State: With a 3-point loss to Purdue in their last game, the Nittany Lions badly needed this one for their NCAA tournament resume. Watkins will be nearly impossible for Penn State to replace if it has to move on without him. The 6-foot-9 forward is third in the country shooting 69.2 percent from the field. He has 13 double-doubles on the season and leads the team with 68 blocks and 258 rebounds. The players who would likely replace his minutes --Julian Moore and Satchel Pierce -- have averaged just 10 and eight minutes per game respectively.

Up next
Michigan visits Maryland on Saturday.

Penn State travels to Nebraska on Sunday.