Indiana opened the door for Michigan to get back into the conference race with their loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night, but Michigan took the second-chance opportunity and pretty much threw it in the garbage can.
The Wolverines strolled into State College, PA with a chance to pull within one game of the conference-leading Hoosiers. All they had to do was beat Penn State — owners of an 0-14 Big Ten record. Easy, right? Not so fast.
Michigan claimed just a three-point halftime lead, but immediately began the second frame with an 8-0 run to stretch the lead to 11. It looked like they were on their way to the should-have-been easy win but the Nittany Lions were able to stop the bleeding and pull back to within four points just a few minutes later. Michigan made a second big run to extend their advantage out to 15 with just over ten minutes to play. For the second time it appeared that the Wolverines had seized complete control.
But — whether by senior night magic, disinterest by the Michigan defense, fortunate random variation — Penn State was able to score 33 points in the final 10:18 of the game to rip the game away and seal the Big Ten’s biggest upset of the season by a final score of 84-78.
Tim Hardaway Jr. lead Michigan in scoring with 19 points (but was just 2-7 from downtown) and Trey Burke chipped in 18 (though he had an uncharacteristic six turnovers as well). Nick Stauskas (12 points) and Jordan Morgan (11 points) reached double figures as well. Penn State’s Jermaine Marshall lead all scorers with 25.
The loss drops Michigan to fourth place in the Big Ten standings where they sit tied with Ohio State with a 10-5 record.
Michigan will look to turn things around on Sunday when they host in-state rival Michigan State at 4:00 PM.