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Penn State basketball drops critical game at Michigan

Despite a valiant effort, the Nittany Lions could not overcome the Wolverines in Ann Arbor and dropped to 11-4 on the season.



Jan 4, 2023; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Penn State head coach Micah Shrewsberry yells instructions to his team from the sideline during their game against Michiga in the first half at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of three consecutive matchups against ranked opponents, Penn State basketball traveled to Michigan on Wednesday to face-off in a must-win game. However, the Nittany Lions could not overcome early shooting woes, and suffered their fourth loss of the year, 79-69.

Cold open in Ann Arbor 

Penn State basketball came out of the gate cold. The Nittany Lions started 1-6 from the field over the first four minutes of play. Seth Lundy and Jalen Pickett carried Penn State in the first half, scoring 22 of the team’s 34 points.

Michigan used an early 21-8 run to take a commanding first-half lead. Although three-pointers helped Penn State pull within four late in the half, the Lions could not score consistently. A half-court buzzer-beater from Evan Mahaffey closed the margin to eight at halftime. But the first half was dominated mainly by the Wolverines, who shot almost 50% from the field.

A game of runs

The second half was a story of dueling runs.

Spurred by Mahaffey’s buzzer-beater, Penn State scored 11 unanswered points as part of a 13-2 run to tie the game at 47 by the 15-minute mark. The Wolverines quickly responded with an 11-0 run of their own, regaining the lead.

Michigan led by as many as 14 points twice in the second half. Yet, a veteran Penn State basletball squad pulled out another 11-0 run to bring the game within three with four minutes to go.

Ultimately, the Nittany Lions were able to prevent this game from becoming a blowout. Still, it wasn’t enough to get the win. Penn State went scoreless over the final two minutes, and Michigan secured the 10-point victory.

Penn State shot 45% from the field, including 9-28 from beyond the arc. Lundy and Pickett were the only Lions in double digits, scoring 16 and 26 points, respectively. Andrew Funk, one of the best three-point shooters in the nation coming into the game, had a disappointing night. Funk went 1-9 from three and shot 4-12 overall.

Milestone for Myles Dread

Myles Dread crossed a significant career threshold in his final return to his home state as a Nittany Lion. With his lone three-pointer of the night, the fifth-year senior surpassed 1,000 points in his career.

Unfortunately, Dread could not put together much else from the bench. The Nittany Lions’ sixth man went 1-4 from the field and fouled out with less than five minutes to play.

What’s next for Penn State basketball?

The gauntlet will not be getting more manageable for the Nittany Lions, who are now 2-2 in conference play. Penn State basketball will take on top-ranked Purdue Sunday night at The Palestra in Philadelphia, followed by matchups against #15 Indiana and at #14 Wisconsin.

Although the Nittany Lions will likely fall below .500 in conference play over the next two weeks, they have surprised us before. Earlier this season, Penn State soundly beat #17 Illinois on the road. It is unrealistic to expect Penn State to have a winning record over the next three games. But pulling out at least one win would significantly boost the Lions’ March Madness odds.

Penn State is currently projected to be one of the last four teams in the tournament, according to ESPN’s Bracketology. A top-15 win would go a long way toward securing Penn State a spot in the dance. 

Matt is a co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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