Penn State hung with a Michigan State team that played the first half without two of its top players, watched the Spartans pull away after those players rejoined the lineup then made a decent charge toward the end of the game before falling 81-72 on Wednesday night in the Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions (8-9, 0-5 Big Ten) dropped their fifth straight game but finally showed some life on offense, at least from their top two scorers.
Marshall had career bests with 29 points and 10 rebounds in Wednesday's loss.
Top performers: Guards Jermaine Marshall and D.J. Newbill both reached career highs in scoring, with 29 and 27 points, respectively. No other Nittany Lion had more than six points.
Adriean Payne, who was held out the first 24 minutes of the game after being involved in a fight with teammate Branden Dawson at the hotel, scored a career-high 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds after that. Gary Harris had 14 points and Derrick Nix and Keith Appling added 12 apiece for the Spartans (15-3, 4-1).
What went right: Penn State played better team defense than it has in recent weeks but could not handle Payne or Nix on the interior. The Nittany Lions shot 48 percent, easily their best effort since Big Ten play began, and took good care of the ball against a tough Spartan defense, committing just eight turnovers. Newbill was a very efficient 8-of-12 from the floor and added six assists and Marshall was on fire from the arc and just about anywhere else on the floor during his 22-point second half.
What went wrong: The Nittany Lions simply could not get stops when they needed them, particularly during a second-half stretch when the Spartans scored on eight of nine possessions. Penn State finished at a solid 70 percent from the free-throw line but had some bad misses there at crucial junctures in the game. No one else stepped up to help Newbill and Marshall with the scoring at any point; starting forwards Brandon Taylor and Sasa Borovnjak were 0-of-6 and 1-of-5 from the field, respectively.
Statworthy: The Spartans did not have a turnover in the second half and just seven for the game. … Marshall had a career-high 10 rebounds. … Michigan State's bench out-scored Penn State's bench 39-10. … Taylor was scoreless for just the second time this season and the first time since the season opener against St. Francis.
Quotable: "It was a disappointing thing. It was one of those things that if it wasn't for the Twitter era, it would be just another day." -- Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, on the scuffle between Payne and Dawson at the hotel that resulted in a call to Penn State police
"I was very excited. I felt like a dog let out of a cage. I was just so happy to get back on the floor. I'm definitely going to learn from it and grow from it." -- Spartans forward Adriean Payne, who missed the first 24 minutes for disciplinary reasons but finished with 20 points and seven rebounds.
"To come home and get your legs back underneath you and see the ball go through the basket is huge, but we've got to do it on defense." -- Penn State guard Jermaine Marshall, after the Nittany Lions shot 26 percent at Purdue and 48 percent against Michigan State.
"We're just trying to get a win. We're playing desperate right now, playing with a sense of urgency. We can't soak on one game. We've got to keep moving forward. It's a marathon." -- Penn State guard D.J. Newbill
"To give up 52 points in a half is not going to get it done. We need to get stops and you better do it at home. We had a great opportunity tonight and we let it slip away." -- Penn State coach Patrick Chambers
Summary: Penn State played as well as it has in any conference game this season other than the Wisconsin contest but had no answers for a hot second-half stretch by Payne and the Spartans. The offensive outburst by Newbill and Marshall snapped a mini-slump for both players and should give both confidence going forward, but the Nittany Lions are going to need others to step up and help with the scoring. Penn State held its own on the boards and played the scrappy brand of basketball that Patrick Chambers is preaching. If it can do that -- and make shots, as it did Wednesday -- the rest of the season might not be as painful as the last couple of weeks have been.
Up next: Penn State hosts Nebraska at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Jordan Center.