With the 2019-’20 college basketball offseason in full swing, it’s a great time to look back on the decade for the Big Ten. While the league didn’t win a national championship during the 2010s, it did send a variety of teams to the Final Four and had plenty of quality play.
So, in that mindset, BTP is looking at the most memorable games for each Big Ten team during the 2010s. These aren’t necessarily the most significant or the most fiercely contested games. Rather, they’re the most memorable. So, just because a game came in the postseason doesn’t guarantee it a spot on this list.
But before we jump in, a few other notes on our criteria. To qualify for this list, a game needed to happen sometime between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2019. I realize that cuts between two seasons, but that’s the criteria we’re using. A team also didn’t have to win a game for it to make this list. For instance, Michigan’s loss to Louisville in the 2013 title game was certainly memorable, even though the Wolverines didn’t come out on top.
With that, let’s look at the 10 most memorable games for the Penn State Nittany Lions over the last decade.
The Most Memorable Penn State Games During The 2010s:
1/29/11 - No. 15 Wisconsin at Penn State - Penn State 56, Wisconsin 52
The first entry on our list was a pivotal moment for Penn State’s special 2010-’11 season. The Nittany Lions welcomed no. 15 Wisconsin to the Bryce Jordan Center in the hopes of adding another ranked win after two close losses to ranked teams in January (Purdue and Ohio State). The Badgers entered this late January game at 15-4 on the season and in typical Bo Ryan fashion, had their eyes on another Big Ten title.
The first 20 minutes of play seemed to be another classic Wisconsin boa constrictor type effort. The Badgers jumped out to a 29-20 halftime lead as the Nittany Lions were completely flummoxed.
The second half was an entirely different story. Penn State shot a blistering 63 percent from the field in the second half and used the first 10 minutes of the half to jump on the Badgers. With just under 11 minutes to play, Penn State took their first lead at 38-36.
From there it was a battle of wills with Penn State pulling away with timely baskets by Talor Battle, and Jeff Brooks, and athletic play from David Jackson and Andrew Jones. The Nittany Lions finished off the Badgers and won 56-52. Battle scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half, and Jones patrolled the paint with 14 rebounds.
The win ended up being huge for Penn State’s tournament chances. It was their third win of the season over a ranked opponent and solidified their ability to overcome the Big Ten’s best.
3/11/11 - No. 13 Wisconsin vs Penn State - Penn State 36, Wisconsin 33
Another 2011 game against Wisconsin makes this list, though it might not be for the best of reasons.
The Nittany Lions made a memorable run in the 2011 Big Ten Tournament that probably put them in the NCAA Tournament. It started with a victory over Indiana and then Bo Ryan’s Badgers awaited in the next round.
What ensued might not be considered basketball, more like a slow, methodical wrestling match. The Nittany Lions clipped the Badgers 36-33 with both teams shooting under 35 percent from the floor. Battle led the Nittany Lions with 9 points.
The game is memorable for the score, the tough, physical play, and is pointed out as an example of the Big Ten’s sometimes unappetizing style of play.
However fair that is is a separate argument, but this game does leave a memorable impression on the conference and is an extreme example of what Big Ten play was like nearly a decade ago.
Taking out the style of play talk, this was a huge win for Penn State. Like the game above, the Nittany Lions earned another massive ranked win over one of the best in the Big Ten. This game, along with the win over Michigan State in the next round, solidified Penn State’s tournament appearance. Let’s move to that next.
3/17/11 - No. 7 Temple vs No. 10 Penn State - Temple 69, Penn State 66 (NCAA Tournament)
Penn State’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in ten years ended in heartbreak.
The Nittany Lions and in-state rival Temple squared off in a 7-10 game that ended up being one of the best games of the 2011 tournament.
Both teams played at a high level and Temple won with the ball in their hands on the last shot of the game. Battle, in his final game in a Penn State uniform, willed the Nittany Lions to stay close in the second half behind 23 points. Tim Frazier was also excellent with 15 points on 5-6 shooting.
An interesting “what-if” to this game is what happens if Jeff Brooks doesn’t get hurt. The 6-foot-8 senior played only 10 minutes before a shoulder injury forced him out of the game. It hurt the Nittany Lions with him not on the floor.
Though heartbreaking, this game does have moments of what made that 2010-’11 team so special. Tough, physical, not backing down, it was a team right there to take the next step. It remains Penn State’s last NCAA Tournament appearance.
2/27/13 - No. 4 Michigan at Penn State - Penn State 84, Michigan 78
The 2012-’13 season, by all accounts. was a miserable one for Penn State.
The Nittany Lions finished 10-21 on the season and just 2-16 in conference play.
However, one of those two wins came against a top-5 Michigan team that went on to play in the NCAA Championship game. It’s a fascinating, perplexing, and memorable game that stands as maybe the best example of Penn State’s ability over the years to pull off seemingly inexplicable upsets in the Bryce Jordan Center.
One of the most head-scratching things about this one is that Michigan had seemingly locked down. The Wolverines led Penn State 66-51 with just over 10 minutes to play. KenPom put the probability of Penn State winning the game at less than one percent.
Still, the Nittany Lions came through.
Penn State outscored Michigan 33-12 over the final 10 minutes and secured its biggest upset in the Bryce Jordan Arena era. It was Penn State’s last upset of a top-5 team and only the second of the 2000s..
Contributions came from all over as DJ Newbill scored 17 points, Jermaine Marshall 25, and Ross Travis 15 to go along with 12 rebounds.
Just an incredible win to this day, and one the fans and program needed in that season.
1/29/14 - Penn State at No. 23 Ohio State - Penn State 71, Ohio State 70 (OT)
Speaking of D.J. Newbill, the talented guard strikes again in this game.
Penn State entered their game in Columbus against Ohio State losers of 18 in-a-row to the Buckeyes. But that changed as the then-junior crossed over the best defender in the Big Ten, Aaron Craft, and buried a go-ahead shot for an improbable Penn State victory.
Newbill finished the game with 25 points on 9-15 shooting. Brandon Taylor was also key with 19 points, 12 of which came on important three-pointers to keep Penn State in the game.
Another game-winner over the Buckeyes in Columbus is coming up.
2/17/16 - Penn State vs. No. 4 Iowa - Penn State 79, Iowa 75
Another top-5 upset at the Bryce Jordan Center, this time the victim being the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Peter Jok and the Hawkeyes entered the game with its highest AP ranking since the late 1980s and Penn State stopped them in their tracks.
Jok scored 28 points, but the Hawkeyes only had one other player in double figures. Penn State shot 46 percent from the field and enjoyed a career-high 19 points from reserve Donovon Jack in 22 minutes of play.
1/25/18 - Penn State at No. 13 Ohio State - Penn State 82, Ohio State 79
The Tony Carr game-winner.
If you are looking for a game to see how special Tony Carr was you are probably firing up this classic from Columbus.
The Nittany Lions entered this game against Ohio State limping along in Big Ten play. They stood at 14-8 overall and 4-5 in the conference with their season drifting away.
From the tip, Penn State was ready to go. The Nittany Lions jumped out on the Buckeyes to a 25-14 lead, but Ohio State battled back to make it a one-point deficit at halftime.
In the second half, the same kind of story. Penn State jumped on the Buckeyes again and led by double figures at multiple points in the second half. With under three minutes to go, they seemed to be on their way to a massive win. But Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop wouldn’t let the Buckeyes go down. Diop hit multiple three-pointers including a game-tying one to make it 79 all with five seconds to play.
Not using a timeout, Penn State’s Tony Carr got the ball up the floor and let it fly from the Value City Arena logo and banked it in for an incredible 82-79 victory.
Carr finished with 28 points, five assists, and five rebounds in 39 minutes of play. The Nittany Lions also had double-figure contributions from Lamar Stevens, Josh Reaves, and Shep Garner.
3/20/18 - Penn State at Marquette - Penn State 85, Marquette 80 (NIT Quarterfinal)
The Nittany Lions and Golden Eagles squared off in the 2018 NIT Quarterfinal at Marquette. What’s memorable about this game is the quality of play and Penn State’s ability to deal with adversity and advance to the next round of the NIT championship.
Penn State was cruising through the first three quarters (the NIT experimented with a four quarters system in this tournament), but Marquette staged a massive rally in the fourth quarter. With 7:17 left to play Penn State led Marquette 67-53 but the Golden Eagles whittled the lead down to 72-68 with under three minutes to play. With the game getting tenuous, the player of the game, Lamar Stevens, ripped off six straight points to preserve and seal Penn State’s victory.
Stevens scored a then career-high 30 points on 14-22 from the field. Carr added 25 points, six rebounds, and seven assists. The Nittany Lions would take down Mississippi State in the semifinal matchup which leads to the next game on the list.
3/29/18 - Penn State vs Utah - Penn State 82, Utah 66 (NIT Championship)
The Nittany Lions wrapped up their second NIT championship with a second half dominance of the Utah Utes. Penn State led at the break 39-34 and then outscored Utah 24-14 in the third quarter to put the game on ice. While not an NCAA Tournament appearance or championship, the 2018 team should be remembered as one of Penn State’s most memorable and talented.
Like with his performance against Marquette, Stevens scored 28 points, three assists, and two rebounds. Carr and Reaves combined for 33 points. The Nittany Lions also owned the boards to a 34-27 advantage.
2/12/19 - No. 6 Michigan at Penn State - Penn State 75, Michigan 69
The final entry to its list is another top-10 upset in the Bryce Jordan Center.
Michigan entered the February 12th game at no. 6 in the country and 22-2 on the season. Penn State was at the opposite end of the spectrum with a record of 8-15.
You would not have known it from the result of the game.
Penn State came out and dominated Michigan from pretty much the opening tip. The Nittany Lions led by as many as 16 in the first half and then withstood a big Wolverine rally in the second half. Again leading the way was Stevens. The Penn State great scored 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Myles Dread added 17 points with 15 of those coming from three-point range.