Matt Charboneau, John Niyo of The News talk about Mark Dantonio's decision to step down and who might replace him while talking MSU's loss in hoops. The Detroit News
East Lansing — Funny how history tends to repeat itself.
Almost a year ago exactly, Michigan State lost at Illinois, its third straight defeat that included a home loss to a woeful Indiana team. The Spartans were teetering, the confidence was waning and the Big Ten championship was starting to slip away.
From that point, though, Michigan State ripped off five straight wins, somehow lost again to Indiana — this time on the road — then won nine in a row on the way to the Final Four. A hell of a turnaround for a team that looked lost to begin the month.
One year later, the Spartans find themselves in a similar position.
On Tuesday night, No. 22 Penn State handed No. 16 Michigan State its second straight loss and first at home in Big Ten play this season, outlasting the home team for a 75-70 victory at the Breslin Center. It was just the second win ever for Penn State in East Lansing and the first for Nittany Lions coach Patrick Chambers.
“We’re going through a tough stretch right now,” sophomore Aaron Henry said. “It’s like we did last year, but I want to have a closer ending to what we had last year compared to this time. And so I'm gonna turn things around. We’ve lost two games in February, so that's unacceptable.”
While the Spartans (16-7, 8-4 Big Ten) have struggled this season on the road, it made taking care of business at home critical. However, turning the ball over 15 times leading to 21 Penn State points put the Spartans in quite the hole while allowing 15 second-chance points was the clincher.
“The same thing reared its ugly head, the turnovers and the missed layups,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “We just didn’t do the job. I thought our guys gave good effort.
“But the second-chance points. We’re the best rebounding team in the conference and they’re one of the worst but give them credit. We played OK but didn’t play good enough to win.”
Cassius Winston scored 25 for Michigan State but missed a potential game-tying free throw with 11.1 seconds to play and later missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game.
“It was tough, especially the free throw,” Winston said. “That’s the shot that you probably want to tie the game or win a game or something like that. I felt good. My mind was good, I wasn’t nervous or anything like that. I let it go and it hit the back rim, I was a little shocked, but things like that happen.
“There were other ways we could have won the game and that last shot is a shot that I make. I got a good look, just didn’t knock it down.”
Lamar Stevens scored 24 for Penn State (17-5, 7-4) while Myreon Jones added 20 points for the Nittany Lions and Mike Watkins chipped in 10.
“What can you say about Lamar Stevens?” Chambers said. “He's a warrior, he does it all for us. He defends, he rebounds and he obviously makes big shots and big free throws. So, we're going to continue to get better. I really believe we can get a lot better and that's scary to me. So, I'm excited to get on this plane, go home and continue to work and continue to get this team to be the best it can be by the end of the year.”
After a quick start, Michigan State soon found itself in a first-half hole as Penn State controlled the offensive glass and went 7-for-14 from 3-point range. The Nittany Lions scored 15 second-chance points and pushed the lead to 41-30 on a bank shot in the paint from Watkins with 1:33 to play for their largest lead.
Michigan State got a 3-pointer from Gabe Brown, a driving jumper from Winston and a pair of late technical free throws from Winston to cut the Penn State lead to 43-37 at halftime.
Michigan State's Xavier Tillman, Aaron Henry and Cassius Winston talk about the loss to Penn State and how to dig out of their current hole. The Detroit News
Michigan State turned up the heat early in the second half, using a 12-2 run to tie the game at 51 with 13:46 to play after Marcus Bingham scored on a dish from Winston. It was back and forth from there before Penn State started to pull away, scoring eight in a row to turn a two-point deficit into a 61-55 lead with 8:30 left in the game.
The Spartans then answered with their own eight-point run, getting back-to-back 3-pointers from Winston and Kyle Ahrens to take a 63-61 lead. After a Winston 3 gave Michigan State a 66-63 lead, Jamari Wheeler scored on a running layup to pull the Nittany Lions within one, 66-65.
Penn State took the lead, 67-66, on a Stevens jump hook and extended it by a point when Stevens split two free throws. It was pushed to 69-66 with a free throw from John Harrar with 50 seconds to play after a Michigan State turnover.
A jumper from Aaron Henry got Michigan State within a point with 27 seconds to play, but Steven nailed a pair of free throws to make it 71-68 with 16 seconds left in the game. Winston then scored on a drive and was fouled, but his free throw bounced off the back of the rim. After Penn State pushed the lead to 73-70 on two more free throws, Winston had one more shot to tie the game but his contested 3-pointer misfired.
Now the Spartans find themselves trying to dig out of a hole, just like they did a year ago.
“Yeah, that's the first thing I said,” junior Xavier Tillman said. “We lost three games last year in a row before we really turned it around. So we’ve still got a lot of season left against really good teams. So now these wins are gonna be really important.”