Michigan State

No. 7 Penn State at No. 24 Michigan State: Hurting heading into bad-blood battle

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No. 7 Penn State at No. 24 Michigan State: Hurting heading into bad-blood battle

No. 7 Penn State (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten) at No. 24 Michigan State (6-2, 4-1 Big Ten)
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Michigan
Saturday, 12 p.m., FOX

No. 7 Penn State attempts to bounce back from a crushing loss at Ohio State with a visit to No. 24 Michigan State.

Scouting Penn State
The seventh-ranked Nittany Lions frittered away a 15-point fourth-quarter lead in a 39-38 loss to Ohio State last Saturday, dealing a severe blow to their hopes for a Big Ten championship repeat and/or a berth in the College Football Playoff. Saquon Barkley ran back the opening kickoff for a touchdown and also scored on a 36-yard run, but his other 20 carries netted eight yards. He continues to lead the nation in all-purpose yards per game (206.3). He is also fourth in kickoff-return average (34.4) and fifth in scoring (84 points). McSorley has clicked on 65.9 percent of his throws, for 2,071 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has been intercepted five times. Jason Cabinda has 59 tackles to lead the defense, but the Lions had no answers for Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett in last week’s fourth quarter.

Scouting Michigan State
The 24th-ranked Spartans fell, 39-31, in triple overtime at Northwestern last week, despite a 445-yard, four-touchdown passing day from quarterback Brian Lewerke. Two of his TD throws went to Cody White, who caught nine balls for 165 yards in all. White has just 20 catches this season, however, and is third on the team behind Darrell Stewart (35-362-1) and Felton Davis (33-405-7). Running back LJ Scott has rushed for 511 yards (4.5 per carry). MSU leads the conference and is fourth in the FBS in rushing defense, allowing just 89.8 yards a game. The Spartans are also eighth in the country in total defense (283.4). Linebacker Joe Bachie has 73 tackles, and defensive end Kenny Willekes has contributed four sacks and 8½ tackles for loss.

PSU won last year’s meeting, 45-12, to even the all-time series at 15-15-1.

Storyline to watch
The Lions lost offensive tackle Ryan Bates and defensive end Ryan Buchholz to leg injuries against the Buckeyes. That appeared to greatly affect the team late in the game, when it could neither block OSU nor mount a significant pass rush. Coach James Franklin does not address injuries, but it seems unlikely either will play this week.

What's at stake
The teams have exchanged blowouts the last two years. At the end of the 2015 game, Spartans coach Mark Dantonio gave his center a carry, and he rumbled for a touchdown. At the end of last year’s game, the Lions still had their starters in, and were still throwing. So, yes, there would appear to be some bad blood.

If you can’t block anyone and can’t mount a pass rush, how do you win?

Michigan State 27, Penn State 24

Penn State trounced by Michigan State in 2nd round of Big Ten Tournament

Penn State trounced by Michigan State in 2nd round of Big Ten Tournament


WASHINGTON -- It didn't matter that Michigan State had no momentum, or that the Spartans were playing a team that beat them soundly in January.

This was the Big Ten Tournament, when the past usually doesn't matter and Michigan State is almost always at its best.

Miles Bridges and Nick Ward had 15 points and nine rebounds apiece, and the Spartans breezed past weary Penn State 78-51 Thursday.

The fifth-seeded Spartans (19-13) will next face No. 4 seed Minnesota in the quarterfinals on Friday. Michigan State, the defending Big Ten champion, is seeking its fourth title in the last six years.

After closing the regular season with losses at Illinois and Maryland, the Spartans found their groove against a Penn State team playing for the second time in less than 24 hours.

"We're a better team (by) significant amounts, so we just wanted to come out there and show that," Michigan State guard Joshua Langford said. "I felt like they were kind of being nonchalant about playing us, so we just wanted to come out there and make a statement. And we did that."

The 13th-seeded Nittany Lions (15-18) fell behind for good with less than four minutes elapsed, trailed by 18 at halftime and sputtered to the finish after taking out Nebraska in overtime on Wednesday.

"I don't want to say fatigue played a major part in the game," Penn State guard Tony Carr said. "We just kind of got outworked."

Carr and Lamar Stevens each scored 16 points for Penn State, but they combined to miss 23 shots.

Penn State shot 29 percent and was outrebounded 44-29.

Michigan State opened the season with back-to-back defeats, endured a three-game skid in January and finished an uncharacteristic 10-8 in conference play. Yet, the Spartans always seem to be sharp at this time of year.

Michigan State is now 28-14 in the Big Ten Tournament and 101-45 all-time in March under coach Tom Izzo.

"I thought with my guys tonight, we executed a little better and hit our shots," Izzo said. "We got our break going, were pretty good defensively. It's one of the best games we've played this year."

It didn't take long for Michigan State to gain control against a team that one day earlier snapped a five-game losing streak.

The Nittany Lions led 5-3 before Ward made three layups and a jumper in the lane during a 13-1 run during which Penn State went five minutes without a point.

It was 18-13 before a dunk by Bridges and a 3-pointer by Langford launched a 12-0 spurt that put the Spartans up by 17.

Penn State closed to 36-27 before Bridges and Kenny Goins scored on tip-ins, Kyle Ahrens popped a 3 and Bridges soared high on a dunk for a 45-27 lead at the half.

After coasting through the second half, the Spartans began looking forward to their matchup with Minnesota. Even though Michigan State went 2-0 against the Golden Gophers, this game made it clear that past performances don't mean much in the Big Ten Tournament.

"That was so long ago, I don't think that has anything to do with it," Izzo said. "The thing we have to beat Minnesota one time, and they have been playing good. We'll have our work cut out for us, but what a great opportunity to play in this thing and I'm happy we're still playing."

Big picture
Penn State: The Nittany Lions celebrated on Wednesday night, and they also had wins over Michigan State, Maryland and Minnesota during the regular season. But their lack of consistency left them 6-12 in conference play and with virtually no chance of getting far in the tournament.

Michigan State: The Spartans save their best play for last. So what if they lost two straight coming into the tournament? No team in can match their five Big Ten titles, and there's no reason to think they can't make it six.

Up next
Penn State: Season likely over.

Michigan State: The Spartans beat Minnesota in overtime on the road before registering a 65-47 victory on Jan. 11.

Penn State enjoys 'magical experience,' tops Michigan State at Palestra

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Penn State enjoys 'magical experience,' tops Michigan State at Palestra

For the last 90 years, an endless number of great coaches have passed through the hallowed hallways of the Palestra and stepped foot on the famous gym floor.

But few likely ever did what legendary Michigan State coach Tom Izzo did Saturday — apologize to the building itself.

“My apologies to this magnificent facility,” Izzo said after the Spartans were knocked off by Penn State, 72-63, in the first Big Ten regular-season game ever played at the Palestra. “I loved the experience. I appreciated the hall. I appreciated everything about it — except I feel like we cheated those of you who have seen great teams and great coaches and great players play here. You got robbed today by the team in green.”

The unique game, played in front of a sold-out crowd and shown on ESPN, was set up because Penn State coach Patrick Chambers wanted a home game in Philly since six of his players hail from the area. And Izzo wanted the chance to coach in the historic gym for the first time in his legendary career.

Both got their wish but only Chambers walked away with the win as the Nittany Lions (10-7, 2-2) snapped Michigan State’s four-game winning streak and beat the Spartans (11-6, 3-1) for the first time since 2011.

“A magical experience for sure,” Chambers said. “Not just for me and our team but for all Penn Staters. Man, was that fun to have a packed house like that. The home-court advantage was amazing, and to have it here at the Palestra, these guys will never forget this experience as long as they live.”

To help them prepare for the game, Chambers said he took his players on a tour of the Palestra on Friday, pointing out the plaques and photos of past teams and players that decorate the walls. He even had them run the Rocky steps earlier on Saturday.

But many of his players didn’t need to be reminded about Philadelphia and what playing basketball in the city means. Three of them — Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens and Nazeer Bostick — captured the Philly Catholic League Title last year at the Palestra with Roman Catholic. Another player, Shep Garner, also played his high school ball at Roman, and two others — Mike Watkins and Julian Moore — are from the area.

And not surprisingly, it was the Philly kids who led the way in the potentially program-altering win. Stevens scored a game-high 18 points, Carr had 14, Watkins added 11 off the bench and Garner scored eight to surpass the 1,000-point milestone for his career.

Payton Banks, whose sister played her home games at the Palestra for Penn, also had 11 after scoring 20 in the Nittany Lions’ last game at the Palestra — a 63-57 win over Drexel a little over a year ago.

“I felt at home,” Stevens said. “It felt like a home locker room.”

Stevens had a good laugh about the locker room when he heard Izzo comment about the Palestra’s old-school lack of luxuries.

But Izzo, who’s famous for his dislike of social media, absolutely loved it. In fact, that was one of the reasons he wanted to coach his first game at the Palestra, saying earlier that it was something he wanted to cross off his bucket list.

“To walk in the locker room and not see any jacks for Wi-Fi and phones and Twitter, God it was great, you know?” the Michigan State coach said. “I told our guys we’d probably have to hang our coats on hooks. We didn’t even have hooks in there! It was awesome. It was just awesome. I threw my damn coat on the floor and said, ‘This is where it belongs. This is some humility.’ And we need some humility right now on our team.’”

Penn state coach Patrick Chambers — who grew up going to games at the Palestra and whose brothers, Tim and Paul, played football and basketball at Penn, respectively — had another great reaction to coaching inside the 90-year-old gym, which tends to get as hot as it does loud.

“The lighting. The smell. It’s a gym. It’s a gym,” Chambers said. “I was drenched. I had to get changed. I was drenched underneath my coat. And you just love it. You love every second, every sweat, every drop.”

More than anything, Chambers loved getting the win, saying a victory over a perennial powerhouse like Michigan State in a place like the Palestra could be the kind of signature result to help elevate a program that’s only made two NCAA Tournaments in the last 20 years.

And Izzo, in the end, turned his apology into a thank you, even if he admitted to being “stupid” for taking his team into a “hornet’s nest” so he could “get my brains beaten in.” 

“Thanks for giving me the experience of a lifetime,” he said. “I truly mean this.”

Chambers also had a lot of reasons to be thankful after watching his team shoot 60 percent in the first half, paced by a couple of big threes from Banks, and come through with a few clutch steals down the stretch to fend off the Spartans in front of a packed crowd filled with fans who braved the snow to be there.

“There’s something really magical about this place,” the Penn State coach said. “It’s very near and dear to my heart. I will never forget this day for a long time.”