A massive second half effort from Penn State made this contest tight throughout the final 20 minutes. Though Michigan was leading by eight heading into halftime, the Nittany Lions came out on a 10-0 scoring run to take back the lead. On the back of Moritz Wagner, the Wolverines were able to keep the game contentious the rest of the way. It was those big shots from the German that paced Michigan to an eventual 72-63 win.
What We Learned
1. Moritz Wagner is always the difference maker.
John Beilien’s team had some stretches of dry offensive play this evening. Whenever they ran into a drought, like the one they suffered early in the second half, they turned to Wagner. The junior hit back-to-back three pointers after Penn State went on a 10-0 scoring run. Any momentum the Nittany Lions had was disrupted as Wagner hit three after three. He finished the game nearly perfect from long range, going four of five.
It seems that whenever other offensive weapons struggle, Wagner is always there. Charles Matthews and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman both had tough games statistically speaking. Never the less, it was the German who was relied upon to lead the offense. Lucky for him, Duncan Robinson and Jordan Poole played very well alongside him.
Not all the Wolverines can be relied upon game in and game out like Wagner. That is what makes him Michigan’s most valuable player.
2. Bench play marred Penn State all night.
As I will mention in a little bit, Lamar Stevens and Tony Carr were great in this game. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the Nittany Lion bench. This game saw them score only a combined six points on only nine shot attempts. So not only were they underutilized, but they were also relatively ineffective in the first place.
This has been an issue Pat Chambers has dealt with all season and it is one that is not going away anytime soon. With only one regular season game before the conference tournament, Penn State needs relief off the bench more than ever. Sadly, it seems as though that relief will not come. What I would hate to see is Penn State make it to the NCAA Tournament only to be foiled by their lack of depth. That would be a sad way to end a fairly magical season for the Nittany Lions.
3. The duo of Lamar Stevens and Tony Carr belongs in the NCAA Tournament.
So much has been made of Penn State and whether or not they are worthy of an NCAA Tournament bid. Outside of their paltry non-conference schedule, the Nittany Lions have had some massive wins in conference play. Whether two wins over Ohio State warrants them at-large consideration, I do not know. However, I do know that I would love to see Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens in the NCAA Tournament.
The former high school pairing has looked so impressive over the course of this season. Tonight, they showed their terrific chemistry a couple of different times. It was most evident in their alley-oop to one another which gave Penn State their momentum back.
By game’s end, Carr and Stevens combined for 40 points and they were the only two Nittany Lions to score in double figures. While I may not want to see the rest of their team in the NCAA Tournament, I would love to see Stevens and Carr compete on that stage. You almost feel as if they would carry Penn State to a tournament win, but maybe that is just me.
It was too easy for Michigan to solve Penn State’s game plan down the stretch. For the Nittany Lions, it was Tony Carr or bust in crunch time. He was unable to make enough shots to put Penn State in front at home. On the other side, the Wolverines did make their big shots. Whether it was Moritz Wagner or Duncan Robinson, their veterans paid the biggest dividends in this contest.
Michigan only has one game remaining on their schedule, a test against Maryland on Saturday. Penn State closes out their season on the road against Nebraska. Oddly enough, the Wolverines may in fact be cheering on the Nittany Lions in an attempt to get a better seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Currently, the Huskers and Wolverines sit deadlocked in the Big Ten standings.