Penn State gave a top-five team all it could handle on its home court Sunday but No. 4 Michigan took control of the game early in the second half and held on for a 79-71 win at the Crisler Center. The Nittany Lions (8-17, 0-13 Big Ten) had four players in double figures but had no answer for conference player-of-the-year candidate Trey Burke, who got plenty of offensive help from his teammates.
Sasa Borovnjak had another solid offensive game Sunday but Penn State fell again.
Top performers: Jermaine Marshall and Sasa Borovnjak scored 17 points apiece for Penn State, which also got 11 points each from D.J. Newbill and Ross Travis. Travis grabbed 10 rebounds and Newbill added five assists.
Burke led the Wolverines (22-4, 9-4) with a season-high 29 points and Glenn Robinson III, who made all six of his field-goal attempts, had 21 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman Nik Stauskas had 18 points.
What went right: Penn State had terrific offensive flow from the beginning of the game on and was able to maintain it even when Newbill and Marshall got into some serious early foul trouble. The Nittany Lions dominated a much more athletic Michigan squad on the boards, made 88 percent of their free throws and stayed within striking distance of one of the nation's top teams until the final minutes.
What went wrong: The Nittany Lions were aggressive and physical on defense but in doing so they left Michigan's shooters open throughout (the Wolverines couldn't make them pay in the first half but did so in the second) and racked up 25 personal fouls, which limited their lineup combinations and made it tough to close the gap in the final minutes. After controlling the game for much of the first half, Penn State had some bad turnovers and empty possessions during the first few minutes of the second half and played catch-up the rest of the way.
Statworthy: Penn State needed one more point from Nick Colella to put all five starters in double figures. Its bench combined for just six points, all by Brandon Taylor. Burke, Robinson and Stauskas combined for 68 of Michigan's 79 points. … The Nittany Lions have a combined 32 assists in their last two games after averaging only nine assists in their first 23 games.
Summary: They'll both go down as losses, but the last two games showed a different Penn State team than the one Big Ten opponents had been slicing through easily. The Nittany Lions got solid offensive games from Borovnjak and Travis and two 3-pointers each from Colella and Taylor, shared the ball well and played the gritty style of basketball -- with, for the most part, a new element of control -- that Patrick Chambers preaches. This team still needs to play better and smarter defense if it is going to close out a game but the Nittany Lions seem a lot closer to a win than they were two weeks ago.
Up next: Penn State visits Illinois at 8:15 p.m. Thursday.
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