For the past few years, Penn State has had a knack for pulling off at least one or two upsets a season over ranked opponents in conference play.
Last season, it was the Nittany Lions’ victory over No. 22-ranked Illinois, and in 2011 the Lions defeated No. 15-ranked Wisconsin at home.
If the Lions are going to snag an upset this year, it will have to wait.
Despite keeping it close for the majority of the contest, the Lions couldn’t pull off the upset as authoritative post play and step-out jumpers by Adreian Payne led to an 81-72 victory by No. 18-ranked Michigan State.
“We made shots, which is a good thing. But to give up 52 points in a half, it's not going to get it done,” Lions coach Patrick Chambers said. “We had a great opportunity tonight, and I felt like we let it slip away.”
Payne, along with guard Branden Dawson, didn’t start because of an altercation between the two earlier in the day, but the forward made his impact felt in limited time.
In just 17 minutes, the 6-foot-10 forward racked up a career high 20 points – 16 of which came in his first eight minutes of action.
“Adreian is a good player, and if he keeps his head on right and does the right things, he’s a good player,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “He’s getting to be a better player because his shot is getting more comfortable [and] we’re starting to feel more comfortable going to him.”
While Payne executed a phenomenal second half, Penn State’s Jermaine Marshall and D.J. Newbill dominated scoring-wise, primarily capitalizing on ball screens.
Marshall, who dropped 22 points in the second half alone, finished with a career-best 29 points and chipped in 10 rebounds.
Marshall wasn’t the only Lion with a career-best scoring night as Newbill connected for 27 points.
“The way we defended ball screens was a joke. Give both those guys, Marshall and Newbill, a lot of credit,” Izzo said. “…They just muscle dribbled us. They out-dribbled us and outworked us."
Not only did the two guards sink shots from the field (18-of-30 combined), but the combo also made the Spartan defense work by drawing contact.
Coming into the matchup against the Spartans, Penn State's number of attempts from the line was only 42, ranking second to last in Big Ten play.
Regardless, the Lions penetrated the lane and created 27 attempts from the charity stripe.
While Marshall led all scorers, Newbill's assertiveness with the basketball produced an 11-for-15 showing from the free throw line.
"I was just taking what the defense was giving me. They were giving me a driving lane, and so I took what they gave me,” Newbill said.