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East Lansing — Early this week, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo talked about there being no easy nights this season in the Big Ten.

Wednesday at the Breslin Center was a perfect example as Michigan State held off Penn State, 66-60, in a back-and-forth game that wasn't decided until the final seconds.

Branden Dawson scored 12 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had three blocks for Michigan State (13-6, 4-2 Big Ten), while Gavin Schilling had 11 points and 10 rebounds. Denzel Valentine added 11 points while Matt Costello and Travis Trice scored 10 each.

"After the (Maryland) game, I'm gonna take the win and move forward and see if we can continue to get better," Izzo said. "Did we make any progress in mental toughness? I'm sure we did. We found a way to win at the end."

The Spartans were able to overcome a 27-point night from D.J. Newbill, the Big Ten's leading scorer. He had 18 in the second half for the Nittany Lions (12-7, 0-6), who have lost seven straight.

"We got the win and that is the one thing that is big," Costello said. "Newbill was going crazy so we had to execute down the stretch. But we're figuring out ways to win. It's still ugly, but I think we're getting better and we've just got to keep pushing."

The ugly was another difficult shooting night and not much production from Valentine and Trice. Valentine was in foul trouble much of the game and Trice, again, had trouble finding his shot. They combined to go 8-for-18 from the field but were just 1-for-6 from 3-point range.

"We just missed a lot of shots," Izzo said. "We've just got to get a little more out of our key guys on both ends of the court. But I thought Zel, even though he struggled the most with the foul trouble, he showed a different attitude from the start of the game to the end."

It was a tight game for the entire second half, and though Michigan State never trailed, Penn State never went away. After Bryn Forbes hit his first 3-pointer of the game to put MSU ahead 44-41, Newbill answered with Dawson's hand in his face to tie the game at 44 with 8:39 to play.

Costello then scored on a layup to put Michigan State back in front and after another Michigan State turnover, Shep Garner hit a contested jumper from the corner to tie the game at 46-46 before Forbes nailed a 3-pointer from the wing in transition to put the Spartans ahead. However, Garner hit his own on the next possession ahead of a Valentine layup that put MSU up 51-49.

Newbill then got to the line for a pair of free throws to even it back up at 51 before Valentine hit a pull-up jumper in the lane to put the Spartans ahead 53-51.

Michigan State appeared to be pulling away when Penn State coach Pat Chambers was called for a technical foul, and Valentine split the pair before another 3-pointer from the corner by Forbes. That was followed by a block from Dawson that led to a layup from Trice and a 59-51 lead for Michigan State.

"Most definitely that gave them momentum," Chambers said. "Then they hit the big three. I take full blame; no matter what happens I can't let the frustration of years past get to me and that's what happened."

Penn State answered with five straight to cut it to 59-56, but Costello got a layup and another Dawson block on Newbill led to a Trice layup and a 63-56 lead for the Spartans, who despite struggling from the line, made enough free throws in the final minutes.

It was a solid defensive effort for Michigan State in the first half but it wasn't nearly as effective on the offensive end.

After struggling from the field in Saturday's loss at Maryland, the Spartans again had trouble hitting open shots in the first half against Penn State, going just 9-for-24, including 1-for-8 from 3-point range. Michigan State finished 23-for-54 from the field but just 4-for-13 from 3-point range.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/mattcharboneau

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