As the clock wound down and Michigan’s Trey Burke launched a desperation 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining in the game, Penn State students began pushing up against the perimeter of the court, ready to storm when the clock hit zero.
Just before the buzzer went off, chaos ensued as students and fans alike packed the floor of an electric Bryce Jordan Center following Penn State’s upset win over No. 4 Michigan on Wednesday night.
After trailing by as many as 15 points in the second half, the Nittany Lions rallied in the final eight minutes to upset the Wolverines, 84-78.
Following 14 consecutive losses in the Big Ten and being held without a win since Dec. 29, the Lions used clutch shooting from the field and free throw line down the stretch to pull off the program’s first win over a top-five opponent since 2001.
After Lions coach Patrick Chambers had said for weeks that the team was “close,” the coach channeled his inner historian to describe the attitude throughout a previously winless conference slate.
“A great friend of mine gave us a great Winston Churchill quote. Just six words, ‘Never, never, never, never give up,’ ” Chambers said.
With 4:53 remaining in the game, Jermaine Marshall — the leading scorer of the night with 25 points — nailed a 3-pointer to knot the game up at 74, and from that point the Lions (9-18, 1-14 Big Ten) prevented the Wolverines (23-5, 10-5 Big Ten) from recapturing the lead.Two free throws a minute later by Marshall coupled with a made shot from the charity stripe by Sasa Borovnjak had the Lions up by three with 3:03 to go.
A free throw by Burke cut the Penn State lead to two, but a nifty baseline layup by point guard D.J. Newbill on the other end gave the Lions a crucial two-possession lead.
However, the Wolverines’ attacking mentality refused to wilt as Burke and forward Jordan Morgan made a combined three free throws in a minute to cut the Lions’ lead to just one with 1:21 remaining.
With the game in the Lions’ favor at 79-78, Chambers called a 30-second timeout to regroup and dial up a play, and he said the players were locked in during the final minutes.
“They had that look in their eyes. That look, ‘I’m here. Just tell me what to do. Tell me how to win this game. Tell what to do.’ And they executed,” Chambers said.
Coming out of the timeout, Chambers ran a play to get the ball into the hands of Marshall and it worked as the guard made a signature spin move to the basket for the lay-in.
“It’s a little chip play that we run,” Marshall said. “D.J. did a great job of trying to throw my defender. He chipped him, [the defense] switched it and coach put the ball in my hands.”
Up by three with less than a minute to go, Michigan failed to convert another basket and three free throws between Borovnjak and Nick Colella — both of whom were honored prior to the game for Senior Night — iced the game.
“What you saw today is why all love college basketball. I've been seeing this coming from Pat Chambers for the last month,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “…They beat us fair and square, and for the last ten minutes really outplayed us.”
After almost two months without one going in the victory column, the seniors and the entire Lions squad craved a win.
The fact that it was against the fourth best team in the nation was an added bonus.
“Tonight was just a relief. All the hard work, all the film sessions, all the practices, all the shootarounds, all the times we came into the gym by ourselves… It finally paid off for us,” Newbill said.
When asked what he felt about the crowds’ reaction after the buzzer sounded, Newbill said while the team cherished the experience, and he felt gratified to give the fans something to hold onto.
“We were all enjoying it. Our hard work we felt paid off,” Newbill said. “We also just wanted to help our friends be proud. They’ve been coming out and supporting us all year and we were happy to give them something to keep cheering and supporting us about.”
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