How do the Spartans do this? They lose to a D-2 team in the exhibition season. Then they reel off 14 of 15, only losing to UCLA. Then they somehow they lose at Iowa when they can only manage 36 points. Now they lose on the road to Penn State 85-76? The biggest win for Penn State in the Ed DeChellis era.
Penn State lost senior guard Geary Claxton a couple weeks ago when he tore his ACL in a loss to Wisconsin. The Nittany Lions had lost their next 4 games by an average of over 16 points. Tonight, though, the Spartans were a step slow and sloppy. Penn State outworked and outhustled Michigan State for loose balls and rebounds and the Spartans committed a slew of stupid fouls as a result.
Penn State built a lead early in the second half, because they were hot from outside. Taylor Battle and Stanley Pringle were getting free on screens to make 3s. They built a 10 point lead that Michigan State erased with a 23-7 run over the next 6 minutes to take a 60-58 lead. At that point, it was reasonable to assume Penn State would fade like they did earlier this week against Ohio State.
Instead Penn State stayed with Michigan State and continued to outwork the Spartans. Michigan State's foul problems caught up to them, as did Drew Neitzel only making 2 shots. In the final couple minutes, Michigan State kept missing and Penn State kept getting the rebounds. What was a tight 2 point game with 1:17 left, stretched out to a 9-2 Penn State foul fest crawl to the end.
For the Spartans, this is probably just a hiccup. It is, however, a huge reminder of how much they need Drew Neitzel in every game.