After 14 consecutive losses in conference play, Penn State upset No. 4 Michigan 84-78 for its first Big Ten win of the season.
An estimated 8,892 at the Bryce Jordan Center witnessed the winless Nittany Lions storm back from a 15-point second-half deficit on Senior Night to deal a blow to Michigan’s regular-season title hopes.
For weeks, Patrick Chambers has asserted that his team was “close.” At the post-game press conference, the Penn State head coach simply put his hand on his head and sighed.
“Words can’t express how I feel right now,” Chambers said. “Because it really is about these kids.”
“They come with a great approach everyday. We were on a 14-game losing streak and they still came with a great approach everyday.”
The win was Penn State’s first at home over a top-five team since a victory over No. 5 Purdue in 1998.
Jermaine Marshall led all scorers with 25 points on 8 of 17 from the field and 6 of 10 from the 3-point line. Ross Travis tied a career-high with 15 points and also nabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Wolverines with 19 points, while Trey Burke and Nik Stauskas contributed 18 and 12 points, respectively.
Penn State (9-18, 1-14 Big Ten) held Michigan without a field goal for the game’s final 6:30. The Wolverines turned the ball over 15 times in the game, which the Nittany Lions turned into 20 points.
Burke — a former Penn State commit who chose instead to attend Michigan — finished with six turnovers. Stauskas committed five.
“I kept saying we were close (because) I knew we were going to earn one somewhere down the line,” Chambers said. “I didn’t know when and where. But what a great night to do it on senior night.”
Michigan head coach John Beilein echoed similar sentiments.
“I’ve been seeing this coming with Pat Chambers’ team for the last month,” Beilein said.
“We’ve watched a lot of video. They’re just really getting used to playing well together.”
The Wolverines (23-5, 10-5 Big Ten) shot 51 percent from the field — good enough to win on most nights — but Beilein said missed free throws and turnovers changed the game.
Penn State was 20 of 27 from the line, while Michigan was 13 of 20 and missed several key freebies late.
With No. 1 Indiana falling to Minnesota on Tuesday, Michigan was in position to compete for at least a share of the regular-season conference title.
“This was one of those games we had to have and we didn’t get it,” Beilein said. “So will it be deflating? Yeah, it will be but it’s our job as a coaching staff to get back on Friday and Saturday.”
Trailing 66-51 with 10:39 remaining, Penn State embarked on a 33-12 run to end the game.
After a 9-2 run cut the Wolverines lead to 68-60 with 8:29 remaining, Burke looked poised to dash the Nittany Lions’ hopes with back-to-back scintillating floaters in the lane.
But Penn State captain D.J. Newbill (17 points) said his team refocused in the huddle.
“Everybody was like, ‘Listen, they made a run, now it’s time for us to make ours,”’ Newbill said.
Penn State embarked on another 14-2 spurt that energized a frenzied crowd. During the run, Marshall hit a three from the top to square things at 74 with 4:53 remaining.
After two free throws from Marshall and one from Borovnjak, a Newbill layup extended the Lions’ lead to 79-75 with 2:05 left, forcing Beilein to call a 30-second timeout to regroup.
Penn State’s crowd took advantage by starting a rapid chant of “I believe that we will win.”
Marshall was at it again with his team up 79-78 after Burke went 1 for 2 from the foul line. Chambers called a timeout with 1:15 remaining to set his strategy.
“Coach put the ball in my hands,” Marshall said. “He had trust in me and made me believe I was going to make a play.”
The junior co-captain penetrated the paint with the dribble, spun right to get out of trouble and scooped a left-handed layup that gave the Nittany Lions a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Seniors Nick Colella (nine points) and Sasa Borovnjak (nine points, five rebounds) hit the game’s final three free throws to capture the game for Penn State.
“(Nick) was kind of emotional after the game,” Marshall said. “That’s a guy who works hard 24-7 just to see him finally get happy about getting a win and it was on his senior night ”
“Same thing with Sash. He got down on himself during the game and I pulled him to the side. And he hit some big free throws. To go out with a win for these guys I think says a lot about our team.”