For whatever reason Penn State — last place in the Big Ten Penn State, that is — was like Kryptonite to the Michigan Wolverines this season.
In the first meeting of the year — in the friendly confines of Crisler Arena — Michigan limped their way to an underwhelming eight point win. The Nittany Lions were able to stay even with the Wolverines at halftime and kept the deficit to within two possessions inside the final two minutes, but were ultimately unable to steal the elusive road win. Their strong showing wouldn’t turn out to be a fluke.
Ten days later the two teams would meet in State College, PA for their second tilt of the year. After leading by only three at the break, Michigan turned on the offense early in the second half and found themselves ahead by fifteen points (66-51) with just over 10 minutes to play in the game. It seemed like they would coast to an easy win, but Penn State had different plans. They finished with a 33-12 run in the final 10:18 to steal the win away from the Wolverines and claim their first win of the conference season.
With these two uninspiring performances fresh in their mind, the Wolverines wouldn’t underestimate Penn State for their first round meeting in the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday. But the Nittany Lions had a say in the matter too, and for more than 20 minutes it looked like they might (again) have a chance to play spoiler. Penn State trailed by just three points with 13 minutes to play in the game, but a three minute, 12-0 run by the Wolverines put the game away. Penn State’s hot shooting went cold for a stretch, and Michigan took advantage of the opportunity and put the pesky twelve seed behind them. The Wolverines coasted to an 83-66 win — finally recording that comfortable, convincing win over the conference’s worst team.
Trey Burke lead the fifth-seeded Michigan in scoring with 21 points (7-15 from the floor) and Nick Stauskas and Tim Hardaway Jr. each added 15. Mitch McGary recorded a double-double off the bench with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
(5) Michigan takes on (4) Wisconsin in the quarterfinal round at 2:00 PM on Friday. Television coverage will be provided by ESPN (and WatchESPN). The Michigan-Wisconsin winner will take on the winner of tomorrow’s Indiana-Illinois game on Saturday.