Two teams on the opposite end of the Big Ten men’s basketball spectrum met as Penn State traveled to Michigan on Tuesday.
They stayed that way.
The Wolverines pulled away in the second half to remain unbeaten in conference play and Penn State dropped its fifth staight with Michigan’s 80-67 triumph at Crisler Arena. The Nittany Lions never led in the contest.
Nik Stauskas scored 13 of his 21 points in the second half for the Wolverines (12-4 overall, 4-0 Big Ten). D.J. Newbill and Tim Frazier scored 17 points apiece for Penn State (9-9, 0-5), but those two backcourt standouts weren’t enough against a balanced Michigan team. Derrick Walton added 16 points for the Wolverines, and Glenn Robinson III scored 15.
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The Wolverines led 47-45 when a 3-pointer by Stauskas started a 19-5 run that gave Michigan a comfortable advantage.
Michigan and rival Michigan State are the Big Ten’s only teams without a conference loss.
“There’s a lot of things that are happening out there that allow us to continue to improve,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “When we go to Wisconsin, we’ll see how good an offensive team we are.”
The Wolverines play at Wisconsin on Saturday, then host Iowa before the showdown at Michigan State on Jan. 25.
Michigan led by as many as 14 in the first half, but it was 40-33 at halftime, and the Nittany Lions hung around. With the Wolverines ahead by only two, Stauskas connected from beyond the arc to make it 50-45. Newbill answered with a jumper, but Michigan scored the next nine points, including a three-point play by Caris LeVert and an alley-oop dunk by Robinson from LeVert that made it 59-47.
Walton, a freshman, has been gaining confidence after taking over the point guard duties when Trey Burke went to the NBA. Walton made a big driving layup at the end of Michigan’s win at Nebraska last week, and he scored the first eight points of Tuesday’s game on two 3-pointers and a layup.
Michigan led 8-0, and at that point Penn State had four turnovers and only one shot attempt. After a 3-pointer by Spike Albrecht and a dunk by Jordan Morgan, the Wolverines led 30-18.
“The first couple games, everything was going really fast for me,” said Walton,. “Just watching film and stuff like that, it’s just really slowing down the game.”
Walton ended up shooting 6 of 9 from the field.
“To see him do that, I just hope that he takes that into the rest of the games,” Michigan forward Jon Horford said. “Have confidence in yourself always, and understand that sometimes it’s your game, but it’s not always going to be your game. And when it’s not your game, still keep your mind right and still have that confidence.”
Penn State upset Michigan in February for one of its two Big Ten victories last season. The Nittany Lions never led Tuesday. Frazier did have six assists, passing Dan Earl for second place on Penn State’s career list. Frazier has 576.
Donovan Jack scored 12 points for Penn State. Jon Horford gave Michigan a boost inside with 11 points and seven rebounds.
In the final seconds, the Nittany Lions allowed a dunk by Robinson, and Penn State coach Patrick Chambers did not seem pleased with the defensive effort. After a layup by Frazier, Chambers called time with 12 seconds left and was animated when his team huddled up.
“I know the fans are booing me. I have a young team,” Chambers said. “They’re looking at the clock and they’re thinking, ‘All right, we lost and it’s time to get out of here.’ That’s youthful. It’s this generation and somehow we’ve got to change that. It’s my job to change it, I’m just trying to teach them a lesson that that’s not Penn State basketball.”