Payne, Spartans erupt in second half to put away Penn State

The Nittany Lions probably felt like little kids on punishment shortly after Adreian Payne entered the game for Michigan State along with Branden Dawson early in the second half of Michigan State’s 81-72 victory in University Park on Wednesday night.

Penn State had been hanging with its national ranked opponent for a good portion of the game. In the first half, the Lions predictably struggled to hit shots, but solid defensive play and a lack of turnovers helped keep their halftime deficit at only four points. Michigan State freshman Gary Harris opened up hot from three-point range, but the Spartans struggled with their shooting for most of the half. Meanwhile, D.J. Newbill found room to penetrate, which provided enough offense to keep PSU close.

Michigan State was hurt in the first half by the absence of Payne and Dawson, both of whom were benched by head coach Tom Izzo in response to a scuffle that morning that caused damage to the Nittany Lion Inn. However, there were no criminal charges filed, and both players entered the game just three minutes into a high-scoring second half.

PSU played a surprising amount of man-to-man defense in this game, and it was working until Payne came in. The 6’10”, 240-pound junior was simply too much for Sasa Borovnjak to handle. Payne dominated on the inside with 3 offensive rebounds and 20 points in just over 16 minutes of time on the court. He even stepped back and hit a three-pointer when he apparently grew tired of bullying the Lions on the block. The word “beast” gets thrown around a lot lately, but that term is the only appropriate way to describe how Payne played in the second half of this game.

Despite Payne giving Michigan State’s offense a kick in the butt, Penn State was able to stay close for the first 10 minutes or so of the second half thanks to a scintillating performance from Jermaine Marshall. Unlike Penn State’s other main scorer Newbill, Marshall doesn’t lack a jump shot and is capable of scoring from anywhere on the floor. His skills were on full display on Wednesday, as he connected on runners, pull-ups, and even step-back three-pointers to net a career high 29 points on 10-for-18 shooting. Marshall even grabbed 10 rebounds (all on defense) to lead all players in that category.

Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to beat the Spartans, who used a barrage of scoring from Payne, Dawson, and the MSU guards to pull away from Penn State in the later stages of the game. Here’s more notes from the game.

  • Newbill had his best game of the season thanks to his refusal to settle for jump shots. The sophomore scored a season-high 27 points while shooting 8-for-12 for the field and 11-for-15 from the free throw line.
  • Newbill also pitched in 6 assists. It was great to see him draw fouls as often as he did, because that’s something he needs to do for Penn State to have success on offense.
  • Besides Marshall and Newbill, no other Nittany Lion stood out much at all. Brandon Taylor was particularly woeful with zero points in 28 minutes (0-for-6 shooting).
  • Penn State did not have an offensive rebound for the longest time in this game. Jon Graham entered late and eventually picked up the slack, but the point is that Michigan State did a darn good job on the boards.
  • The Lions only turned the ball over 7 times, which is a number that needs to stay that low, because PSU will continue to be lousy at shooting.

So Penn State did lose to Michigan State just like we all expected, but there were good things! Marshall and Newbill both shot over 50 percent and got to the foul line! The Lions scored 72 actual points against a pretty good defensive team! Maybe next time the role players can contribute more and PSU will pull out a victory. Penn State is back in action on Saturday for a home game against Nebraska. It will probably be favored!

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