Thursday, September 24, 2020

FINAL: No. 16 MSU makes second half push to claim victory over No. 20 Penn State, 79-71

March 3, 2020
<p>MSU forward Xavier Tillman (23) dribbles during a basketball game against Penn State at the Breslin Center on Feb. 4, 2020. The Spartans fell to the Nittany Lions, 70-75.</p>

MSU forward Xavier Tillman (23) dribbles during a basketball game against Penn State at the Breslin Center on Feb. 4, 2020. The Spartans fell to the Nittany Lions, 70-75.

Photo by Alyte Katilius | The State News

Rallying from a 19-point deficit, No. 16 Michigan State took its fourth-straight victory at No. 20 Penn State, 79-71 Tuesday night.

After shooting 11.1% from three and 40.6% overall in the first, MSU improved to 40% from three and 67.9% overall in the second.

The initial shooting struggles and slow start mimicked what MSU fans saw during the Spartans' midseason struggles in early February.

Junior forward Xavier Tillman was the only Spartan to make much happen in the first half. He ended the night with a career-high 23 points and 15 rebounds.

Penn State sank 10 threes in the first half, while making none in the second. Penn State sophomore guard Myreon Jones, who saw the floor for just his second time after sitting with injury since Feb. 4, proved the difference from the arc, shooting 4-4 from three in the first half.

With the lead sitting in the Nittany Lions' hands, Michigan State went on a late 8-0 run to cut Penn State's lead to 15 entering the half. 

Out of the locker room, Penn State's struggles began when shooting zero for their first four shots while MSU made all of their first five.

Michigan State made 12 points, before sophomore forward Aaron Henry drained a three, five minutes into the second half, that tied the game at 49. On the next possession, Tillman made a layup to bring the lead to the Spartans' side for the first time in the matchup.

Freshman guard Rocket Watts looked hungry for buckets all night, and in the second half, his shots finally clicked. Watts put up 20 shots, sinking seven of those to give him 18 points.

MSU scored 48 points in the second half, and held a drastic 22-13 edge on boards in the latter half as well.

Penn State had the game within four points during the final minute, until a three-point play by senior guard Cassius Winston pulled the game away from the Nittany Lions' control.

With No. 9 Maryland's loss at Rutgers, MSU is now tied for first place in the Big Ten.

The Spartans will return home March 8 for their final game of the regular season against No. 19 Ohio State.

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