Penn State’s Mike Watkins asked his coach to return to the game after he suffered a right-leg injury early in the team’s game against Michigan on Wednesday night.
Watkins, the team’s top rebounder, was helped off the floor with 16:19 left in the first half. Penn State coach Patrick Chambers checked with the team’s trainers before sending the Nittany Lions forward back into the game with 7:17 left in the half.
“He didn’t look good to me, so I took him out,” Chambers said after Penn State’s 72-63 loss to Michigan at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Watkins returned to the bench with 4:52 left in the first half and didn’t return the rest of the night. Watkins, who went into the night averaging 12.5 points and a team-high 9.2 rebounds per game, was limited to five minutes due to the injury.
“We don’t know what the situation is with Mike,” Chambers said. “He’ll get tests (Thursday).”
The Nittany Lions (19-11, 9-8 Big Ten) have now suffered back-to-back losses with Watkins limited due to foul trouble against Purdue and due to injury against Michigan. Penn State relies on him to protect the rim defensively, battle on the boards and make plays on the offensive end.
Watkins’ absence had an effect on Wednesday night’s game.
“That certainly was a factor in the game as well that I don’t think he was moving well,” Michigan coach John Beilein said.
Watkins went down with the injury early in the first half with the Nittany Lions on defense.
“It was such a bang-bang play,” Chambers said. “I didn’t even see it. I didn’t even know he was down until they blew the whistle.”
Watkins wasn’t on the bench during the second half as the Nittany Lions tried to overcome his injury against Michigan.
“If Mike’s on the bench and he’s showing hurt or pain, I think that deflates the team as well,” Chambers said. “He wanted to be back on the bench. We just felt like it was best to give our team the best psychological chance (and) to keep him in the training room.”
Michigan rides 3-point shooting
Michigan knocked down 10 3-pointers on its way to the win Wednesday night.
Moritz Wagner went 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, while teammate Duncan Robinson finished 4-for-4 from 3-point range. Michigan finished 10-for-21 as a team.
“Our whole thing was have high hands,” Chambers said. “Don’t let ’em shoot ’em. Don’t let ’em get ’em off. Obviously they got 21 off.”
Robinson paced Michigan with 19 points, and Wagner added 18 points.
“It’s something that we can work on,” Chambers said. “Nebraska takes a ton of 3s too, so we got to do a better job with that.”
PSU struggles against zone
Chambers said his team needed to attack Michigan’s zone defense differently Wednesday night.
The Nittany Lions coach wanted to see his team get the ball to the corners and the middle to make plays. And he wanted them to drive more often.
Tony Carr finished with 21 points to lead Penn State, and Lamar Stevens had 19 for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State at Nebraska, 5:15 p.m. Sunday: The Nittany Lions close out the regular season against Nebraska. The Nittany Lions beat Nebraska 76-74 in overtime in the first matchup between the teams Jan. 12.